What does it mean to lead in an age of rapid change and disruption? Although we’ve been leveraging technology for decades, organizations are still grappling with being digital. As we’ve seen with many technology projects gone awry, technology alone does not make an organization digitally adept. More than ever, the cultural shift, the capabilities and in particular, the changes required in leadership styles are the true barriers.
If you think about the environment in which leaders operated less than a decade ago:
- Information was power. (Leaders typically had access to the most data.)
- Information was hierarchical. We expected leaders to have all the answers.
- Leaders had to appear in control. Being unsure was generally frowned upon.
- Generally speaking, leaders were not allowed to make mistakes (or they could not readily admit they made a mistake).
Fast forward to the last five or six years in particular, and the world is more than ever:
- Social (People based. Consumers are in control)
- Networked (Power is in our connections)
- Open (Ideas are everywhere, sources of information are not top down but side to side and bottom up)
- Supportive vs. transactional (The revenue first, sales first approach no longer works; it’s about value exchange)
- Democratic vs. authoritative
The organizations that are thriving in the digital economy are mirroring these five attributes not only in their business models but in the processes they’ve adopted and the leadership style of their management teams. Older or incumbent organizations and institutions must adapt to face these changes in environment, business models and operating models. As such, we are telling seasoned leaders they must now collaborate (inside and outside the organization), innovate and iterate (often), create and co-create (with competitors, vendors and customers) and while doing so, fail fast so we can all learn from their mistakes! This is not simply a technological challenge, it’s a cultural and mindset shift.
As many studies have now shown, businesses that redesign their organizations while also investing significantly in technology, are those that will outperform the competition.