Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Digital Executives’ Set of Core Digital Leadership Capabilities

The purpose of capability-based leadership is to ensure the right leaders put in the right positions with the right set of capabilities to lead more effectively via connecting the minds and touching the hearts.

The intention of becoming a digital leader is to catalyze changes and drive digital transformation; to inspire and innovate, to improve and advance, to facilitate and encourage, and to walk the talk, become the part of the change. As change is often uncomfortable, yet necessary part of reaching the future and sustain the success. Digital makes everything so transparent, and dynamic, it raises the leadership bar as well. Not only do you need to have hard skills and soft qualities, but also you should build a full set of digital leadership capabilities that are not isolated, but interdependent and coherent to improve digital leadership effectiveness and maturity.

Multidimensional thinking capability: Digital leaders today need to be highly intelligent and highly influential. Digital leaders today not only need to show solid conventional intelligence such as “IQ” and “EQ,” but also have to present a set of unconventional intelligence and multidimensional thinking capabilities such as critical thinking, creative thinking, strategic thinking, Systems Thinking, independent thinking, holistic thinking, etc, for dealing with over-complexity and hyper-competition of the digital new normal, and handling unprecedented uncertainty and ambiguity seamlessly. They must apply multi-intelligence properly and practice independent thinking all the time; it means to be authentic, practice real thinking, break down outdated rules or traditions, to connect the minds intellectually and touch the hearts empathetically, and improve leadership effectiveness and maturity ultimately.

Innovation capability: Innovation is about how to transform novel ideas and achieve their business values. Digital executives’ innovation capability is about how well they can play a role in both management innovation and innovation management and set the right tone to build a culture of innovation. An innovative leader has leadership traits such as creativity, openness to the new ideas, out of the box thinking, inquisitiveness, risk tolerance, etc. Innovative leaders can connect wider dots to extract and impart learning from any situation to the new circumstances; they must be like a conductor leading the orchestra with a not yet completely written symphony. Innovative leaders not just follow the rules, but have the courage to break down some outdated rules and set updated digital principles for further harnessing the creative atmosphere. So they can strike the right balance of best practices and next practices, and help the business build innovation as a core capability.

Learning agility: With the exponential growth of information, shortened knowledge life cycle, commodity knowledge only a click away, and the overwhelming mix of signals and noises; false and truth, learning knowledge only is not enough, capturing insight is the must. Today’s digital leaders must have learning agility to learn and relearn all the time, they must have the attitude to keep learning, as well as have learning aptitude and intelligence to learn fast and smart. The qualitative digital leaders must be very open to knowledge, desire for insight, and hunt for wisdom. At the hyper-connected digital era, to break down stereotypical biases or any types of career ceilings, learning agility, continuous delivery, expert power, and dynamic digital footprint becomes the very significant part of being “who you are,” to present digital leadership authenticity and sharpen a set of core leadership capabilities for improving leadership maturity.

Problem-solving capability: Fundamentally, leadership is about the future and change. Leadership practice, is, at its heart, a problem-solving process. We all develop reputations for being problem creators, problem definers, or problem solvers. Problems-solving capability is critical to improve leadership effectiveness and maturity. Because sometimes, even you have a good intention to solve problems but perhaps just fix the symptom and cause more serious problems later on. Hence, digital leaders today need to understand that the linear management skills are not sufficient to lead today’s nonlinear digital world with the deep learning curve; it is crucial to exemplify leadership via self-leadership discipline, keep focusing on building the new and nonlinear skills and shaping multi-layer, recombinant capabilities for problem-solving and innovation.

Strategy management capability: Top leaders today spend a significant amount of time on both crafting strategies, leading, and overseeing strategy execution. Strategy Management is a process of evaluating a company’s mission, establishing the company’s design, developing the company’s organizational relationships, whilst guiding the company’s plan to execution, to ensure that the management is consistent with the company’s strategy. Hence, the digital leaders should have an in-depth understanding of the business, able to view the complete business system as an ecosystem with all its dependencies and interconnections; they are also able to tie these things together in order to develop actionable plans; identify key leverage points where the non-proportional impact can be made, and the well-set goals can be achieved smoothly. Hence, the top leader's strategy management capability helps them achieve leadership vision and improve leadership maturity.

Change capability: Today’s digital leaders must be the change agent themselves in order to lead digital transformation seamlessly. Because change is no longer just once a time business initiative, but an ongoing capability to adapt to the digital new normal.  The implementation of any significant change process usually succeeds or fails because of the leadership of that change process. The digital leaders today must understand the psychology behind changes, and lead change at the mindset level. Turn around the tough situations skillfully. Hence, the advances of digital leadership mindset and maturity of the leader’s changeability directly impact on how further the change can go forward and how deep change effort can permeate. A change agent leader is a problem-solver, enjoys understanding the complexity, and guides people through it; finding common ground and initiating dialogues. The challenge is how you move the ‘needle’ forward, and really mind the digital gap to accelerate your organization’s digital transformation.

Decision and judgment capability: Today’s digital leaders need to lead their organizations to the uncharted water and blurred digital territories. It’s a difficult challenge. The top leadership roles need to spend significant time on making both strategic and tactical decisions on a daily basis. Top digital leaders today must have the ability to make sound judgment and effective decisions, especially at the strategic level. In order to make effective decisions, it is more important for senior executives to frame the right questions than hunting for the right answers. Due to the complexity, uncertainty, interdependence, and ever-changing business dynamic, sound judgment is a hardcore competency which often does not just come from “gut feeling,” but based on updated information, solid knowledge and decision wisdom, as well as the humble attitude to master the full learning cycle.

The hardcore digital leadership capabilities are multidimensional, and it takes time to build. Even many have the passion for leading, if you lack an integral set of leadership capabilities, your leadership influence will be compromised, and your leadership reputation will be tarnished. Digital leadership is both art and science.


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