Digital transformation requires that the people, processes and technology within an organization align with the desired end goal in order to achieve the greatest success. Additionally, these areas need to be set up to continuously improve and adapt after achieving the initial goals of the transformation initiative.

One additional component, however, is critical to long-term success: The buy-in, alignment and actions of leadership in support of the digital transformation, as well as the teams and methods used to achieve it. This includes C-level leadership, as well as department and practice areas heads.

Let's explore the critical role leadership plays in the success of digital transformation initiatives.

Alignment With Other Leaders

You may have a leader within your department or division who is a strong proponent for the digital transformation initiative you are currently undergoing. This can be a big boost to your team’s productivity and morale. Or you may report to a leader who is skeptical of change, misaligned with the goals of the transformation, or potentially directly or indirectly thwarting some efforts.

Leadership alignment is critical to the success of digital transformation. From my experience, it's important enough that an organization should fix issues there before even beginning a large initiative.

Pausing to ensure that leadership is aligned allows you to ensure that all the departments and functions within a company will cooperate from the top down. It also helps prevent any issues which might arise when misaligned leaders with contrary motives get involved.

Related Article: 3 Ways to Change Company Culture to Support Digital Transformation

Leading by Example

Success in digital transformation requires leaders to be more than just philosophically aligned and speak favorably of the common goals of the initiative. True success in transformation requires leaders show their support through their actions.

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This might be in a positive manner, such as the prioritization of activities and goals that align with the transformation. Leading by example might also be through calling out bad behaviors and individuals or teams that are stuck in their old ways or resisting change, whether it well-intentioned or not.

Related Article: Communicating Change: Overcoming Resistance Through Empathy

Reframing Their Team’s Roles in Terms of the Transformed Organization

A well-executed digital transformation requires a commitment to clear and effective communication. It is not enough to simply make a good PowerPoint presentation or put a compelling video on the corporate intranet.

In this case, communication needs to include reframing every individual’s role in terms of the goals of the transformation. Some basic guidelines can simplify this. Since the three pillars of digital transformation are 1) improving the customer experience, 2) improving efficiency and 3) improving processes, leaders can start here. By reframing everyone in the company’s role around building a customer-centric culture and set of processes, leaders can often provide more meaning and value to individuals, because they can more easily see how their actions impact bigger goals.

Leaders must also engage in more than one-way communication. Instead, they must open up a dialogue with their team to better understand any reluctance or misgivings around the initiative. Many times employees simply want this dialogue and are willing to get on board with change once they are listened to and their issues are heard.

As you can see, there is a strong relationship between leadership’s actions and commitment, and the success of a digital transformation initiative. While many factors contribute to the long-term success of transformation, leadership's involvement is critical in both the short- and long-term.

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