It goes without saying that good leadership in the workplace is crucial for success. Not only is it a requirement to make sure your business objectives move forward, but there are also all the relationships with those who both work for you and with you. The old adage says, people don't leave a job, they leave a boss. 

Leadership requires a mix of skills that some, new to the discipline, may feel unprepared for. In many cases, the skills that got them into leadership positions are very different from the ones they need to exercise now. To help better define what you need to be a successful leader we asked experts for their tips on how to maximize your potential.

Intellectual Curiosity

There is always some new technology or resource that requires the ability to learn and incorporate into teams and platforms. This requires a mindset of continual be successful.  “Intellectual curiosity is key,” said Trevor Doerksen is president and CEO of Calgary-based ePlay Digital. "CEOs in digital workplaces need to have the traditional management skills and a sufficiently broad and deep knowledge of digital technologies to lead, inspire, and execute." 

He added that digital workplaces demand fundamentals in communication skills while combining traditional management skills and digital technology to a level where lack of intellectual curiosity could be lethal.

Related Article: 8 Skills Every Digital Leader Needs 

Understanding Human and Customer Nature

Robb Hecht is adjunct professor of marketing Baruch College in New York he argues that while successful digital leaders today need to know the technology and direct response — the true leader still grounds themselves in human nature, empathy, the customer journey, pain points and how creative, messaging and content strategy influence human behavior supported by our growing technology interface landscape. “Digital leaders must not stray too far from the important tree of humanity,” he said.

A digital leader also needs to demonstrate empathy, a clear vision and a commitment to creating a healthy work culture. "I believe being a digital leader requires a bit more effort than traditional leaders who have that face-to-face interaction daily. Digital leadership requires intentionally fostering interpersonal communication, creating a sense of community and making sure everyone can work both efficiently and effectively to maximize productivity."

Vision Of Where The Business is Headed

A good leader needs to be focused on the present, always with an eye on the future. This according to Paul Bailo, global head of digital strategy at Infosys Digital is a key to success. Do you see what others don't see? Do you see what can be and not what is currently? Do you see what needs to be and must be to have?

Passion and Purpose

Can you get your organization excited about digital? If you aren't passionate about what you are doing, you can't expect your workers to be either. Leaders need to be change agents when going through a digital transformation. Can you drive your employees to radical change, to engage their heart, mind and soul in the digital transformation process?

Bailo warns that you need to be invested in these outcomes with a clear plan to bring them to life. Ask yourself, is digital transformation a new shiny object or do you fundamentally want to change your organization forever? You need to have a focused purpose of why you want to embrace digital and not because everyone is doing it. 

These aren't easy tasks and there will be triumphs and failures along the way. Do you have what it takes to weather the storm of failure, pain in changing and disappointment as you journey to the world of digital, asks Bailo.

Learning Opportunities

Related Article: How to Cultivate a Culture of Feedback in Your Workplace

Ability to Leverage Analytics

Great decision making is dependent on great data and turning data into insights is a key factor. "What matters is how enterprises can leverage data and unlock its power to create better and faster business outcomes,” said Upen Varanasi, CEO & co-founder of Houston-based Riversand Technologies. The key to any digital workplace success is realizing that digital and data are connected, and leaders must recognize that being data-driven is a core requirement to run a successful digital business.

“Aligning the technologies to real ROI within business strategies is a better focus. Certainly, any CEO with an aversion or dislike for technology discussions needs to reconsider their career choices, however. I think that any CEO must have an affinity to quickly consume the value of digital investments and know how to champion the appropriate priorities,” said Dean Pipes, CIO of Chicago-based TetraVX.

Great Communication Skills

Leaders should be comfortable with openness, willing to share data and information, according to Brad Palmer, CEO and co-founder of Jostle Corporation. They must be willing to enable employees to make their own decisions, since they now have the context and information to do so. Leaders must also be forward looking, to continuously improve they systems that guide and enable your team. And finally, you must be good at dealing with, and leading, change, since in a digital world, that’s relentless, he says.

“Traditional management skills are often viewed as setting annual goals, having team status meetings, basic employee reviews, and combining all of those with measures of productivity. The 1950’s are well behind us. We need leaders, starting with the top of the organization, to create an employee experience that is exciting, engaging, and diverse that has become a foundation of a healthy organization. Business strategies have to be understood at all levels, and goals need to be personalized down to the individual,” said Pipes. To do all this requires a great communicator

The Ability to Delegate

Many new leaders fall into the trap of trying to do everything themselves or micromanage the processes. A leader, however, needs to possess the ability to recognize their own limitations and to delegate the things they don't do well, Joshua Keller, co-CEO of Global Agora said. This also allows leaders to focus their energy on the aspects of running the company that are imperative to the business’s growth.

Pipes agreed, adding, that while profound knowledge of digital technologies may be required by certain leaders, for most, it should be garnered and maintained by trusted managers . "The CEO needs to be able to quickly understand the value to a given business function or area when it is explained, but I am not certain that profound knowledge is the requirement. The ability to listen, learn, and evaluate options brought forward by internal and external advisors is far more important," he said.

Additional Thoughts on Digital Leadership

Paul Boag is a user experience designer,  a service design consultant and expert in digital transformation. His experience in the field goes back years and he has been heavily involved in the digital transformation process of many enterprises. Last year, Boag outlined what he believed the key characteristics of a digital leader are. He pointed out that there is a new generation of executives emerging who view business differently than traditional leaders of the past. Digital leaders have been shaped by the internet era and have a radically different mindset to more traditional leadership styles. In sum, he offers several pointers as to what a digital leader is. 

  • Obsesses over the connected consumer
  • Is ready for the challenge of constant feedback from customer and digital devices provides constant feedback
  • Enables remote working
  • Uses and exploits the unique qualities of digital and enables employees to do the same
  • Digital has introduced some obvious changes to the workplace. The rise of remote working is probably the most apparent, but that is just the tip of the iceberg.
  • Adapt their workplace to a new generation of employees raised in the digital era.