Digital Leader: what skills do you need to lead a digital team?

6 min

If companies are changing to exploit the potential of digital business, can the leader’s figure ever remain anchored to old practices? The cultural transformation underway necessarily requires an adjustment of professional figures and corporate roles to the new business models and visions. Abandoning the beliefs that worked in the past means using an approach that is more in line with the new goals of Digital Transformation. Let’s see what aspects the digital leader will need to work on.

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The figure of the leader: how it was and how it should be

We imagine a charismatic man or woman mass dragger when we hear the word leader. A kind of hero who can be trusted to achieve a goal. Yet this vision is no longer correct.

Today the leaders act behind the scenes and no longer from the top of a pedestal. They must motivate the team, engage them to achieve shared goals and visions, and not expect them to follow orders in deference to the role. They will no longer have to be a boss but a colleague who inspires confidence.

Today’s companies need leaders who build relationships, engage emotionally and rationally; who are a source of inspiration and motivation for their team. Ego will have to give way to the satisfaction of seeing their team committed to the goals they had defined as leaders. Confidence in yourself and professional abilities are essential for being a leader, but you must be careful not to turn it into presumption.

Among the many definitions of Leadership given by theorists and economists, the one that, in my opinion, best describes the role that the leader should play today is by Victor H. Vroom and Arthur G. Jago in “The Role of the Situation in Leadership”.

We see leadership as a process of motivating people to work together collaboratively to accomplish great things. Note a few implications of this definition.
1. Leadership is a process, not a property of a person.
2. The process involves a particular form of influence called motivating.
3. The nature of the incentives, extrinsic or intrinsic, is not part of the definition.
4. The consequence of the influence is collaboration in pursuit of a common goal.
5. The “great things” are in the minds of both leaders and followers and are not necessarily viewed as desirable by all other parties.

The 6 characteristics a Digital Transformation leader should have

If society changes, if technologies change, and if business processes change, people have no choice but to adapt by changing in turn. The static nature of corporate roles, protocols, top-down directives and hierarchical structures no longer work in the current context. Flexibility and adaptability, as well as connection and interpersonal skills, are essential elements of good leadership. Today’s structures are horizontal, practices must be shared, and knowledge must reach every member of the corporate fabric. This is why it is worth outlining some key characteristics that will help a hypothetical leader become capable of motivating and directing the work of the team towards the achievement of increasingly complex goals.

Digital Leader

Ability to build and manage relationships

Leadership is a skill that is built on relationships. Whether it’s our friends or the colleagues we share an office room with, establishing a good relationship with the network of people we hang out with is important for dealing with situations that arise.

A leader who is about to embark on a new project cannot expect to accomplish it by relying only on their intuition and giving orders to the chosen team. With this approach, the results he will achieve will be poor. On the other hand, if a leader knows how to motivate, creates the right relationships, and shares his knowledge, he will achieve the same goals in a short time and with greater effectiveness.

How do you create quality relationships? First, by listening to the people, you work with. You may or may not be a leader, listening is always the most powerful weapon for building lasting relationships. When we are in a leadership role, we must never forget to engage with our team. After sharing the goals and plans we want to achieve, we need to ask individuals their vision. Their answers will help you highlight what the operational obstacles might be. But they will also serve to help you understand what each team member’s personal issues and challenges are. By leveraging their strengths and working alongside them on complex tasks, it will be easier to move forward. The person in the stern should never forget that they will be the example that others follow.

Creativity and desire to innovate

Experience is a double-edged sword. While it is an unparalleled competitive advantage, it can also dull the brain’s creative side. We have the theoretical knowledge, we have experienced empirically many situations, our professional life may continue to be absorbed by the daily tasks to be completed.

A leader cannot always go down the same roads, even if they are proven and successful. To keep up with the times and maintain business competitiveness, they must spend time on creative thinking. Imagining new solutions for processes that have been static for too long is the turbocharger that makes the company make great strides.

What are the new skills and competencies a Leader should have to operate in the digital business? Here's how leaders are changing in the Digital Transformation Click To Tweet

Flexibility in course changes

When you see a new path, in addition to the courage to change the course, you need the agility to do so. Companies are made up of people who have a different approach to work. Some see change as an exciting challenge, and those fear it because of the initial effort it requires. A leader operating in a digital world will necessarily have to be open to change and be flexible. In addition, they will need to be able to change their perspective on a problem. Only such a personality will be able to engage the team by showing the positive and productive side of change management.

Open mind: fostering inclusivity and diversity

Let’s be clear; everyone has abilities. There are people whose talents are obvious and others who need time and the right context to express themselves. A good leader must foster inclusivity and diversity by giving everyone a chance to showcase their talents. Only then can they create a productive and functional environment where everyone finds their place and feels comfortable. It is not easy to make a team of people who are naturally different from each other work, but the leader must understand how to involve everyone, even the timidest, and how to ensure that no one voice prevails over the others. They will all have to row together and with the same strength to allow the boat to reach the finish line following the course we have set.

Team motivator in changes

Speaking of course, what do you do when bad weather forces you to change direction? Beyond the metaphor, another essential skill of a good leader is dealing with change. In transition, the person in charge must never lose control. This is why it is important to have a new strategy to show the team and explain the new horizons. In addition, you should ensure that everyone understands what you know and that there are no misunderstandings.

Clear explanations, proper training, and feedback to verify the new tasks will help you work better right away. As results are achieved, never forget to congratulate the team and offer feedback to individuals. The comparison may also be required to voice criticism. And here’s another important skill of the leader: knowing communication techniques. Criticism, if constructive, helps to improve, if destructive damages self-confidence.

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Ability to integrate Artificial Intelligence into the team

Virtual assistants, chatbots, and analytics are not technologies that preserve the IT department. Today, these tools offer great growth opportunities for all digital projects. Therefore, a leader will have to evaluate, when choosing his team members, the interactions and dynamics that could be created between physical and digital resources.

Moreover, among the Digital Transformation technologies, Artificial Intelligence has an active role in company dynamics. If we want to imagine it as a resource, we can say that its skills are predictive ability through data analysis; organizational skills that allow the management of huge amounts of information; constant productivity h24/7; interactive skills with customers according to the type of programming of the algorithm; versatility and flexibility in line with the digital world. In short, the digital leader’s right-hand man.

And that’s why those who manage can’t help but incorporate machines or technologies into their team. Just as they will need to pay close attention to digital training skills that can harness the potential of AI. Physical resources will need to interact with technologies smoothly to ensure true shared digital change.

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