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What Is Digital Leadership?

“Giving orders.” Ask any child what a leader is and they will answer you with this. The long-age understanding of what a leader is revolves around the idea of telling others what to do. True, but not so much. As we progress further in life, we understand that being a leader is more than just being able to give directives (or orders). Conventionally, leaders are best able to exemplify their traits in person. Being articulate and confident in person helps push the leader persona successfully. But, as time progresses, leadership has morphed into a different form. This is only the beginning.

  1. More than carrying yourself on a screen

When we think of digital leaders, some may think of Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg. All of them are leaders of the tech industry. But is it purely because of their business model that propelled their companies to such astonishing heights?

A long time ago, a friend who wanted to get her business out considered the applications of technology in her advertising agendas. This was the period when social media was still in its nascent stage and companies were not so much into the use of social-media advertisements. She fiddled with the idea but ultimately went back to the traditional methods of flyers, word of mouth and print advertising. Looking back, she realised that her methods possibly cost her a good amount of potential clients and revenue.

Understanding technology to be an asset that you can utilise is the first step in expanding your business. As digital leaders, we need to know where technology can fit inside our business model. This refers to the simple use of online advertisements, but knowing where the technological disruption can help streamline processes. Naturally, we cannot leave out the need for being the type of person that people look to for a service or product. Digital leaders still need to be able to carry themselves well to work with various types of people. I say various because the likelihood of always meeting a client (virtually) that is of the same personality and wavelength as you is extremely low.

Another given fact, leaders cannot possibly control or know everything that happens within a company. Knowing what you can do best and furthering your position from there is essential in creating strong work productivity.

Like the big names of Zuckerberg, Jobs, Gates and Bezos, you need to take the first step in identifying where you fall within the grand scheme of things. Digital leaders know their place and work well as a cog in a well-oiled machine.

  1. Being graceful in inadequacy

One of the most dangerous things in leading a company is feigning knowledge in things you are unaware about. There is a certain stigma in many companies where being “unaware” is being “inadequate”. This sort of culture permeates throughout the hierarchy, and is usually most popularised by those above.

We often see interviews or have conversations with so-called pundits who preach about things they seem to be heavily educated in. They predict things like a clairvoyant and back their claims with some form of evidence. Yet, most of these predictions rarely hold true. Often, these predictions encompassess some sort of bias or just complete factual incorrectness. To most, especially those educated in the topic, the question of why they even talk about it so fervently (or at all) puzzles them.

These sort of things happen to anyone. There will be times where we try to fill in the gaps of our knowledge in discussions with incorrect information or just feigning awareness in order to not hurt our pride. The occurrence of these incidents happen on a far greater scale than you think. Our ego desires to be unbruised and we feed it.

However, being a good leader means being able to admit that you are not very well-versed in certain things. That is not to mean you completely detach yourself from it but rather being motivated to fill in these gaps and to seek answers to questions. This also means seeking the help of people who work with you or report to you. There should not be a situation where your position in a company prevents you from seeking a question from someone with a lower rank than you. Knowledge knows no barriers, and good digital leaders are aware of that.

Seek to build a culture of inquisitiveness in your company or team. Build a level of trust between everyone to dare to ask questions without being punished. To kick things off, maybe start by taking the lead. Ask questions.

  1. Daring to enact significant change

This is the standard idea that proponents of technology argue for. Automation is a valuable tool in maximising a company’s efficiency. Businesses for example need to generate leads in order to bolster their sales or even to use programmes to enhance production efficiency. Small things matter as well. For instance, manual data entry is something that works, but has found itself to be a tiring and repetitive process. Utilising technology has streamlined many processes in companies worldwide.

I read an article on the importance of building a level of self-reliance in adopting technological advances. I scoffed at it because it was a given. The article spoke of the wonders of digital management, and the utilisation of technology. The usual. As the article progressed, I found myself having an epiphany moment. I realised then that despite our calls and desire for greater productivity, we seem to be wary of change. Companies I know of have made clear that they want to advance further, but have no idea where to start. Often, I tell them to look towards digitalisation and developing themselves (and their staff) to build their protocols on it. Yet despite the advice, I find them reverting back to their traditional tried-and-proven methods. Years passed and things are still the same, some even worse.

Being fearful is a dangerous thing. When leaders are fearful, they go back to their safe havens and hope for a miracle. But miracles rarely happen, and businesses do not just boom on the basis of pure luck.

Putting it into perspective, being a digital leader means more than being able to adopt technological protocols. It encompassess the need to enact change to a company as a whole. The root trait would thus require you to have the skills to evaluate and persuade members of your company that this change is good. Not many people are born with the skills of persuasion and leadership, but it is not impossible. Look towards your self-development to build these traits. Being a digital leader is being able to confidently deal with change in trends.


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