According to Suresh Kumar, CIO of the New York City-based bank BNY Mellon, the biggest change sweeping the ranks of IT isn't technological but cultural, as leaders grapple with what it means to be effective in a digital workplace that blurs boundaries.

Who Are You Leading?

For C-suite executives, one of the biggest current challenges is knowing exactly who they are leading. 

Once upon a time the answer was clear — the employee base. Leadership began and ended there.

But today, for any organization of any size, employees are just one set of stakeholders who can impact the success of the enterprise — and therefore, to greater or lesser extent, require “leading.”

Just as important as the employees are the many contractors and freelancers who make up a persistent part of the internal workforce. Then there are the partners, supply chain, third parties, distribution networks — not to mention the customers and wider marketplace. 

Each of these key groups requires some form of leadership from the CEO as well as from others in senior management roles.

The good news is that a wide and ever-expanding range of digital services is available for leaders to harness to make their presence felt across this variety of audiences — and these tools are better, faster and more reliable than ever before.

Focusing Leadership Efforts

One place to get started is to gather relevant, useful data and metrics on the performance and ways of working of each of these populations. 

At BNY Mellon, for example, employees have access to MyDashboard, a personalized display, which monitors each individual's key results (versus objectives), and also keeps track of the IT resources they use, allowing the bank to gauge how much value these create for the business.

While initiatives such as these have up till now focused on employees, the concept could be extended to other stakeholder groups — with their agreement — allowing leaders to identify weaknesses and therefore where to focus their leadership efforts.

Initiatives such as this can take time to become established. “MyDashboard stats aren't universally accepted by employees,” explains Kumar. "Any time there is a change, it takes patience … Not everyone is data-driven. We need to get people their data and let them see that it is accurate."

Speaking to a Wider Audience

In large enterprises, those in the C-suite have no more time or capacity than 20 years ago — but expectations, in terms of who needs to hear their voices, are now much higher. 

Get your core messages and strategy right and you can regularly keep connected with each set of stakeholders, letting them know who you are, what matters to you and your organization, and why they should want to remain connected with you.

Meanwhile, as CEO of an 80-person consulting and membership organization, operating with staff and customers in 25 countries, but no offices, who do I try to influence as a leader? 

Over the years, the set of different groups, each requiring a subtly different form of communication, seems to have grown wider and wider.

Of course, I maintain regular communications with employees, and closely connected to them the contractors and freelancers. But, beyond that, I also frequently communicate with the wider marketplace of people interested in the work of the Digital Workplace Group (DWG): clients and members, academics, researchers, strategic partners, and so on, using Twitter, LinkedIn updates and blogs, email, newsletters, Yammer, to name but a few channels.

The lines are blurring. One of the exciting aspects of modern CEO leadership is treating a wide range of stakeholders as part of your audience. 

And, interestingly, while the content and communications do need tweaking, it is often surprising just how much of that content is actually relevant to all those you “lead” in different ways.

Title image "audience" (CC BY-SA 2.0) by  miss_rogue