The 5 Most Important Leadership Skills for the Successful Digital Transformation

Image: g-stockstudio/
Image: g-stockstudio/

Digital transformation is dissolving hierarchical structures. New technologies and tools are making efficient teamwork possible and increasing the fun factor at work. If you’re interested in learning about collaboration among project teams in more detail, we strongly recommend our last blog post. Today’s topic is all about leadership: What qualities characterize modern leadership? How does a leader safely navigate an organization through digital transformation? Below, the five most important leadership skills at a glance.


1. Clear Commitment to the Team Idea

What exactly perfect teamwork looks like is debatable. Undisputed, however, is the insight that functioning teams deliver better results than lone wolves. Establishing a perfect team is a Herculean task, but one that always starts with a first step: leadership’s clear commitment to the team idea. This may sound trivial, but most companies are still functionally organized, which obscures the horizontal view of a company’s overarching goals. Now, digital transformation is providing the technical requirements for cross-functional collaboration – something that begins with genuine commitment and not mere lip service to teamwork.


2. Focus on the Customer Experience

As digital transformation progresses, all elements of the value chain become linked with one another. This creates more transparency throughout the entire process chain while also enabling all stakeholders to have a greater impact on the customer experience. In other words: While suppliers or back-office departments used to be relegated to the sidelines and knew relatively little about the end product and how customers experienced it, any team involved in the development of a product can now influence the customer experience. Customer focus is becoming a universal leadership quality! Companies like Apple and Amazon have long embedded this in their corporate DNA and there is no reason why you shouldn’t try either.


3. Unprecedented Networking Competence

In a very elaborate and exciting study, Deloitte came to the conclusion that many leaders are faced with a dilemma: By definition, they’re in a leadership position and can theoretically use their authority to determine priorities and instruct their employees. Problematic from their point of view, however, is the fact that traditional forms of management authority are rapidly losing importance. Younger generations are less and less willing to join an organization whose rules aren’t in line with their personal values. In the long term, this creates a freelancer economy, which, for example, will represent around half the working population in the US by 2020. But because companies rely on the expertise and capabilities of this workforce, leadership faces a new challenge. Freelancers must be involved in project tasks through virtual networking – without being subject to leadership’s authority! Because conventional hierarchical models are destined to become extinct sooner or later, this ultimately requires an eye-level dialogue.


4. Digital Mindset Is Crucial

In traditional organizations, technical questions are passed on to the IT department with the motto: “If it has a network connection, it’s none of my business.” Those days are over! With digital transformation, new technologies are becoming an integral part of all company operations. IT is being upgraded to a universal skill, so to speak. Don’t worry: Thanks to cloud-based models, no one has to learn how to write source code from scratch. But every leader who wants to shape his organization’s digital transformation must acquire a high degree of technological understanding and be able to master modern solutions and tools that have become an everyday part of digital life.


5. There’s Only One Truth: Data

Last but not least, every leader must deal with data directly and independently. Some may wish to return to a time when the secretary in the waiting room brought a file folder with the printed weekly report into the boss’s office along with a fresh cup of coffee. In some companies, this may still be common practice, but anyone who wants to shape digital change as a leader must give up such “privileges” from the good old days. The significance of data in a digital world goes without saying, so we won’t highlight it here. Rather, the takeaway is that modern leaders can’t shy away from scrutinizing even the most detailed data and must be able to see through and feel comfortable in today’s data-driven business world.


Summary: Anyone who wants to shape digital transformation must move from a high-up supervisor position into the middle of the action. Successful digital transformation is instituted through a mentality of participation and tackling things head on. Modern leaders aren’t afraid to analyze data, integrate themselves into virtual teams and occasionally make mistakes. The joint learning process creates a sense of unity between leadership and teams. How do you manage digital transformation? We look forward to hearing from you – request a free live demo of Surwayne today and don’t forget to follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter!

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