Leading the ecosystem

What leaders can learn from influencers

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Influencers inspire millions of people and successfully build networks. On their digital transformation journey, leaders can learn from influencers how to build sustainable ecosystems and how to use them profitably in organizations.

A study shows that every person knows every other person on the planet with six degrees of separation. The fact that the interconnection rate of technologies and societies continuously increases is nothing new. However, leaders have to transform loose interconnections into powerful and sustainable ecosystems. Leading these ecosystems, thus leveraging them at the benefit of transforming businesses and adapting to its needs, is a major challenge for leaders in the virtual age. Influencers manage large ecosystems swiftly. They inspire virtual crowds, build global networks, and customize content flexibly to the demands of their followers. What is their formula for success? What can leaders learn from them to navigate successfully through digital transformation?

Building on followers – the power of a leader’s ecosystem as an indicator of success

The term “influencer” has paved its way into our everyday life. These trendsetters have a strong impact in social networks, which becomes evident when taking a closer look at their success indicators. Examples include high follower numbers, click or response rates, and amount of comments. But what do these numbers tell us about the influencer-follower relationship? These success indicators show us how strongly followers identify with the influencer and how much they agree with the content provided (commitment). Also, they reflect how intensively followers participate in shaping the content (engagement).

Commitment and engagement are essential pillars in a successful digital transformation as well. Managers must be able to inspire with a shared vision, translate the organization’s goals into collective goals of the ecosystem, and live by example. In a nutshell, this requires ramping up persuasiveness as a leader by practicing people skills, thus daring to be visible, communicating target-group specifically and facilitating engagement.

Conquering the network – knowing ecosystems and remaining authentic

Influencers inspire their followers and affect decisions. Fifty percent of consumers rely on influencer recommendations when making purchasing decisions. They know the needs of their addressees and use this knowledge to customize communication. Having an authentic appearance and frequently interacting with their followers allows influencers to create proximity and trust. Rounded off by emotional storytelling, they break down virtual barriers, which in turn is rewarded by clicked “like” buttons.

In more than a quarter of highly flexible companies (36 %), success can clearly be attributed to a well-developed ecosystem. Breaking down barriers is crucial for leaders in order to unleash the full potential of these ecosystems. Two “Is” are the key to success: insights and interaction. Knowing the network and generating insights is the basis for addressee-centric communication. To generate quick insights about their ecosystems, leaders can leverage surveys or digital tools. Based on the insights generated, leaders must tailor their interaction and create valuable content. Sharing this content on suitable platforms, daring to communicate on an individualized basis, and interacting frequently creates trusting bonds in a sustainable ecosystem.

Leading with influence – leadership roles in the digital transformation

Watching influencers and their success with ecosystems makes it possible to re-evaluate conventional leadership. The learnings obtained by observing influencers also manifest themselves in our four leadership roles.

Figure 1: Digital leadership roles from Capgemini Invent
  • Vision translator: Uses emotions and storytelling to convey passion and commitment.
  • Agile ambassador: Acts as role model and inspires with authenticity, transparency, and consistency.
  • Intrapreneur: Has a high innovation dynamic and realizes synergy effects by being part of an ecosystem.
  • Data advocate: Uses the network to acquire a broad information base, gain new insights, and make decisions.

Taking advantage – key takeaways:

  • Commitment and engagement: Create excitement by motivating the members of your ecosystem and involve them in your projects.
  • Authenticity: Your personality and your authenticity are the success factors.
  • Interaction: Listen actively and interact frequently.
  • Ecosystem: Know, maintain, and expand your network.
  • Communication: Dare to be personal, customize your initiatives, and address your community directly.

Thanks to the co-authors Constance Agbonifo, Kathrin Lehner and Anastasia Palavartza.

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