Digitalization changes the nature of organizations. It changes business dynamics, work requirements and needed skills. A more democratic access to information may cause hierarchy and silos to break, and blur functions and organizational boundaries. Leaders need to change. They need to become digital leaders.
Talking of leadership in digitalization is talking of change management. Besides the impact on business, there’s change on the people’s side too. People’s expectations and the way they face relationships have evolved. What we knew about work-life balance and other priorities is no longer true, especially for younger generations.
What is digital?
According to Tom Loosemore, becoming digital is “applying the culture, practices, processes, and technology of the Internet era to respond to people’s raised expectations”.
Therefore, becoming digital is about accompanying people’s transformation and transforming ways of working to respond better to the recent needs. No digital transformation is an objective itself.
Now, people choose how to communicate, organizing their lives under different standards. Digital leaders need to understand what is happening to seize business opportunities.
The times they are A-changin’
Let me steal these Bob Dylan’s words to point out that the times are changing again. This is not the first time in the last decades with a massive change. In the 80s and onwards, many businesses suffered a computerization; now they are suffering a digitalization. And again, technology is not what should worry us.
Digital leaders don’t need to be tech savvies, and yet they need some basic knowledge. This digital era calls for adaptation and flexibility: a curious, opened mind can make the difference. Leaders need to know how technology can help their business, and why and how their people use it.
Enterprise social software platforms (ESSPs) have come to stay. In most of the cases, they are more informal communication tools with great reach, than ways to change how to develop leadership. But digitalization shapes the context and highly conditions how people perceive leadership.
The access to information is fast and more democratic. Younger generations don’t consider information as a source of power, since they have it at their fingerprints. And at the same time, well-informed and better educated employees request delegation and more contribution.
Since more people know more, decision-making processes are changing, and people seek for more social collaborative manners. Leadership is more distributed.
Digital leaders’ presence has to change. Digitalization promotes other ways of communication and thus affect the outcome. Presence should be there where it’s required, and in the ways that are needed.