Building Your Digital Leadership Skills

As an IT professional, you understand the importance of staying current with technology. That might mean tracking new Avaya solutions, talking with your colleagues, and participating in IAUG chapters, councils and committees. In short, embracing your inner geek!

 “Digital leaders need to know a lot about technology to be able to evaluate where the opportunities lie,” said Kasey Panetta, senior content marketing manager at Gartner, in a recent interview.  “This is an often-underrated trait for leaders and their people.”

Along with that focus on technology, Panetta said successful digital business leaders have six other traits:

1.  Digital leaders are attracted to newness. They are ready to explore new situations, tend to be more open to embracing new opportunities, and are curious about new ideas. Because of the high rate of obsolescence and the rate of change in the information technology field, leadership is not for the faint of heart, she said.

2. Digital leaders invent, but also copy. Digital leaders are selective about where they invent, which is generally in areas where they want to be better than everybody else. But they’re also excellent about copying because they are not trying to invent everywhere.It’s not effective to dabble in a lot of innovation efforts,” Panetta said. “Instead, leaders should be very clear in the areas it’s okay to copy.”

3. Digital leaders look beyond their industry. Many high-performing digital leaders, like Facebook, Amazon and Google, aren’t concerned with what industry they’re in. Rather, they’re concerned with what gap they can fill for customers. Their customer is at the center of what they do, not traditional industry boundaries.

4. Digital leaders appreciate that innovation is more than just creativity.  There is this notion that innovation and creativity are interchangeable, so if you have people with great ideas, boom, you get innovation, said Panetta. In reality, creativity is just one of five behaviors that you need to bring innovation to market. Creativity will generate the ideas, but you also need a challenging behavior to question, “Why would we do this? Is this really useful? Would someone buy this from us?”Collaboration is needed to pull together disparate parts of the business and various disciplines. The fourth behavior is construction, which is the actual building part. Finally, you need people who will commercialize this innovation.

To truly innovate and bring something to market, you’ll need all five of these behaviors, not just creativity. It’s important to audit your team and make sure you have skill sets in each area. It’s easy to over represent certain behaviors.

5. Digital leaders build teams with high AQ.  Intelligence quotient (IQ) and emotional quotient (EQ) are fairly well known, but fewer leaders measure the adversity quotient (AQ). AQ measures human resilience and the capacity to come back from being dealt a blow. High AQ lends itself to better employee retention that is critical for digital leadership, because the nature of digital transformation often disrupts the way people work by breaking rules and overturning old assumptions.“Build AQ by introducing a little bit of unexpectedness or coaching and exploring different challenges and changes,” she said. “Give people tools to deal with obstacles so that they’re not thrown off their game entirely when things don’t happen exactly according to plan.”

6. Digital leaders never consider digital to be the outcome.  Digital is a means to an end. Be sure to clearly define and articulate the reason for digitalizing. If you digitalize without that kind of extra-clear hard-edged goal, you can end up in bad places.To protect against “doing digital” just for the sake of being digital, consider what you’re trying to optimize or what are the desired outcomes.  “Digital can help you get to your destination, but it is not a destination.”

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