Digital Leadership: 6 Key Management Challenges Today

Digital technologies are transforming the business world at a manic pace, and digital leadership is one of the latest buzzwords in face of the challenges caused by digitization. But does such a thing even exist? And if it does, what exactly does it mean?

Our business leaders often seem overwhelmed by digitization. But what does modern leadership look like in our digital age? Many claim that we simply need a new type of digital leadership. But does such a thing even exist? And if it does, how exactly does it differ from traditional forms of leadership? 

“There is no such thing as digital leadership – and there shouldn’t be.”

To make it short: No, there is no such thing as digital leadership – and there shouldn’t be. What we really do need today is leaders with digital competencies.

Managers with digital know-how are in high demand and often receive astronomical salaries. This has to do both with the raising demand and their special leadership capabilities. 

For businesses, digitization promises efficiency, evolution and competitive advantages in both old and entirely new markets. But in order to reap the rewards, many companies need to rework their whole value chain first. They need to collect digital information, process it and transform it into marketable products.

And for this they need managers that understands this process and are able to initiate, steer and supervise it. 

There are 6 key factors that corporate management needs to take into account in order to navigate the digital transformation successfully.

1. Digital transformation and company culture

Digital transformation is not just a leadership issue. It also has a lot to do with company culture. The domain of work culture is usually where the biggest amount of rejection or adoption happens in the face of new technologies. So what we really need is a cross-generational communication and company culture. 

2. Digital transformation and generation change

It’s not just Millennials (born 1980 or later) who have reached the corporate world influenced by the internet boom and the smartphone hype. Right now the Generation Z (born 1995 or later and also known as Centennials or Post-Millenials) is entering the workforce in growing numbers. These intelligent  and tech-savvy young digital natives have been raised democratically and work most effectively when encouraged to contribute to company processes with their unique experiences.

3. Digital transformation and human resource management

To transform their traditional leadership skills into digital leadership skills, managers need to acquire two new key competencies:

  • media competency
  • intercultural competency

Based on these new skills, management should practice leadership with enthusiasm and openness.

4. Digital transformation and marketing & sales

New products and services as well as the enormous opportunities of big data and social media make abundantly clear how much marketing and sales profit from digitization – and this is especially true in the communication sector.

5. Digital transformation and communication

Digital change transforms all stakeholders’ media usage dramatically, pushing traditional print media to the margins. The boom in social media especially leads to new challenges and opportunities in all sectors of internal as well as external corporate communication.

6. Digital transformation and the organization 

The most important tool to coordinate your employees’ actions and align them with your business goals while taking the effects of digitization into account is your organization itself. 

It determines 

  1. 1) how each business unit should act to complete the tasks at hand 
  2. 2) how each business unit should synchronize with all the others   

To sum up, digital transformation cannot work without the right leadership and vice versa.

A German version of this post originally appeared on the author’s website.

[Title image by Helloquence on Unsplash]

Dirk Lippold

Dirk Lippold

Prof. Dr. Dirk Lippold is a guest professor at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin as well several applied universities. His teaching activities include Consulting & Change Management, Marketing & Communications, Human Resources & Organization, Technology and Innovation Management as well as Business Processes. Prior to this, he has worked in the software and consulting industry for more than three decades. Find him on Linkedin.

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