I was in a meeting recently where one of our Vice President’s was presenting on his new IPad as well as uploading real time information on his mobile phone over a video conference. This really got me thinking how our current leaders in Capgemini are able to operate at a more sophisticated level from leaders of yesteryear. They are able to make informed strategic decisions while accessing real time ‘big data’ readily available at their fingertips and leveraging the information to cash in on profit and growth. It struck me though that whilst leaders in our business are embracing technology and revolutionising the way we work; is this the case across leaders in all organisations?

I would like to believe that with the evolution of new technology like big data, cloud computing, Software as a Service etc, leaders are racing towards creating digital footprints for their organisation. However, the reality is that a lot of leaders are still currently hardwired to their old school management principles. These leaders are highly resistant and sceptical to make technology led changes in order to lead their organisation forward and stay competitive in the digital market.

So what does it mean to be a digital leader?

To drive success, the leadership team now needs to display a well established and deep digital experience to pave the way towards becoming digital leaders. Unlike Gen AO (Always On) who are exposed to, and have easy access to, the internet from childhood, most leaders in the current environment have had to acquire IT knowledge and expertise through reading, using and learning about the technology. They have had to challenge their leadership norms and develop new ways to operate in the digital economy. Being IT savvy is something that leaders can learn, but it is easier said than done. Many leaders and their businesses have not jumped onto the bandwagon of the latest updates and find it difficult to keep up with new and ever advancing technology.

Although developing a deep understanding of the digital environment is essential to become a digital leader, emphasis on other leadership capabilities should not be neglected in order to successfully lead your organisation into the future. Whilst a leader can always develop their technological competence, other leadership skills like multi cultural working and displaying emotional intelligence should also be developed, as the core competencies of leadership to compliment digital nous. Leaders increasingly need to be able to harness technology to bring together different countries and cultures and motivate them via a shared vision.

Capgemini is paving the way in advancing leadership in a ‘digital’ organisation. Our award winning Champions League Orientation leadership development programme focuses not only on developing the leader’s existing digital skillset, but also developing and strengthening all round leadership skills required to lead an effective organisation for the future. For example, participants are asked to work collaboratively to get to know each other prior to the programme using all available digital communication channels such as social media, mobile technology, etc. Leaders also learn to lead through increasing uncertainty and ambiguity, consistent with managing in the current environment. This creates a well formed, digitally enabled leader with skills that are relevant to lead in the future markets.

How can you become a Digital Leader?
While developing digital and broader capabilities are essential to make a well rounded leader, perhaps you could consider some other attributes which could help you mould yourself into a digital leader. Here are my top 3:

1. Become a Technology Change Champion: Yes, the business models from management schools are still relevant, but adapting these business models to address the evolving digital requirements will help your organisation and yourself to become digitally savvy. Lead the change by being the instrument of change. Show how technology makes life easier and better – less complicated, more productive and more fun!

2. Develop your skills as a Digital Leader-: Understand your limitations as a digital thinker/leader and see how you can develop as an individual through self learning (by keeping abreast of new technologies). Carry out what you are learning to keep your skills current and practiced. This will ensure that you retain more knowledge and increase your technical expertise.

3. Create the concept of a Digital Workforce: Get ‘Digital Ready’ to keep up with the pace of business and workforce demands by setting a digital direction and develop digital readiness though your people. Revisit current business processes, plan your workforce to be digitally savvy and create competencies for all employees to become digital workers. Finally, do a reality check to understand the gaps within your organisation, deploying Business to Employee (B2E) listening posts to hear the views of your workforce and redefine decision making and surround yourself with experts in the digital space – digital thinkers and workers across all strata of the organisation.

Though some leaders have trodden the digital path, many are playing catch up. To become the digital leader of the future, embrace technology, upgrade your technological knowledge and become a digital champion. To answer our initial question: Are you a Digital Leader? Make a start by sharing your thoughts or tweeting your response.