The future success and effectiveness of leaders and senior executives will depend on how well they respond to the increasingly important role of digitisation through their business models. Regardless of the sector or size of their organisations, leaders must place technology, not as a function of the business, but right at the heart of it.
This is a topic we discuss frequently within Criticaleye’s global membership Community of leaders and, encouragingly, almost all have digital transformation high on the agenda.
The relationship between digitisation and sustainability is also top of mind for C-suite executives. The pandemic may have been the tipping point for many on ESG(Environment, Social and Governance) issues, but senior teams are now seeing a convergence between digitial innovation and the focus on creating organisations which are sustainable and responding to climate change.
Digitisation is revolutionising the business landscape, but what does this mean for the capabilities and leadership styles of executives at the top of organisations? One thing is clear, senior executives have had to adapt quickly. Leading innovation and digital transformation requires flexibility, agile thinking and a mindset that is open to learning from others.
Speed of change is forcing a lot to happen all at once. Technology is now integrated across the whole business. It is not a separate function anymore, such as where the responsibility for ‘technology’ was typically siloed.
The question often arises about the need for technology expertise at the top table. Of course, having an experienced CTO or digital evangelist is important, but building a top team which really understands what new technology can do and will bring to the organisation and customers should be the focus. Our Members generally agree that leaders need to empower teams and technology experts across the organisation, as well as playing a key role in how digital transformation is organised and communicated.
Internally, the use of digital solutions to facilitate remote-team management, ensure wellness, and improve productivity is getting to be an increasingly important agenda item. This is not just to do with automation. It’s about the ability to have real-time data which makes a huge difference when employees are going through uncertainty and rapid change.
Leading digital organisations
The past two years have demonstrated what is possible when organisations are forced to make big decisions quickly. Along with more strategic challenges, such as pivoting business models, leaders have had to revisit their softer skills and ask themselves whether they have a leadership style that is fit for the future. Leaders need to be creative and work differently.
When it comes to technology adoption, these new leadership skills are also coming to the fore. Previously considered ‘soft skills’, we’ve seen a lot more focus from leaders on developing their capabilities in this area. Now more than ever, senior executives need the ability to be open, authentic, agile, collaborative and innovative.
Few executives have emerged from the last two years unchanged. It’s clear that some have acclimatised to the new world – and adapted their own styles accordingly – but they are going to be tested harder, their leadership skills will be under greater scrutiny, so they should take time to reflect on their approach.