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Digital transformation needs a new leader
Home > Digital transformation needs a new leader

Digital transformation needs a new leader

1 March, 2023
Digital transformation is about more than technology. It’s about people, change, and a whole organisation approach that must be driven by the right kind of leader.

There’s a temptation to consider digital transformation (DX) in terms of the technology that might need to be employed, but as with anything else, successful DX is driven by the people in your organisation – the very people who will either adopt or resist the technology. And that means that DX will require a particular kind of leadership.

Human beings, by their very nature, are resistant to change. None of us likes being taken out of our comfort zone and put in a position where the way we’ve done something for decades is thrown into question. This means helping employees to imagine the future and accept that it’s possible, as well as managing their expectations along the way.

For leaders, this will mean making difficult decisions and having the dreaded “courageous conversations” with employees who are trying to block change. It will mean identifying internal champions of the changes and empowering them to drive it forward. It may require bringing in external talent to boost the knowledge and skills internally.

It will certainly require superb communication skills to ensure that change messaging reaches all corners of the organisation and that employees are never left wondering what the next step is, or how their lives will be affected.

Most of all, however, it requires that the entire top structure is unified in owning the DX and models courage, enthusiasm, and participation in the process, as well as a willingness to support those who require some additional bolstering.

Leaders must understand that DX isn’t a once-off exercise, or something that happens separately, in its own silo. Rather, it is an integral part of your operations – every day, and continuously. It must evolve with your enterprise and become part of the company’s current and future culture.

To build this culture, leaders will have to do the following:

Embrace curiosity – instead of being afraid of novelty, learn to be curious about new things and investigate how you can create value for the organisation.

Don’t confuse innovation with reinventing the wheel – not everything requires that companies innovate from scratch. Instead, look at how you can use existing tech where possible, or copy it, and only innovate for your organisation’s unique challenges.

Be a pioneer – look beyond your own industry for opportunities to create something new that can add extra value, or even become a product or industry on its own.

Remember that digital is not the outcome – but a means to an end. See technology as an enabler of your core business processes and operations rather than being an end in itself.

Reinvent your approach to leadership – this journey is about a whole new way of being a leader, and bringing your employees along with you. It is about so much more than just finding solutions to business requirements.

Stay adaptable – this will require both flexibility and agility, because DX is a journey, and things change fast.

Understand every part of your company – this will help to ensure you select the right digital tools for your business.

Remember that transformation is not easy – it requires serious effort. It means overcoming fears, shedding the past, and pushing yourself and your employees towards something more. It may require that you all dig deep to make the changes you want.

The changes will be spread across people, processes, and technology, so be prepared for challenges like employee resistance, financial constraints, and a lack of expertise in a variety of areas.

However, the role of a leader is to lead by example, so leaders should ensure they learn about the new digital tools available, become au fait with them, and encourage their employees to follow suit. With the right example, attitude, training, and support, employees will be able to handle the transition and navigate both the change and the company into a bright new future.



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