Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The Digital Traits of Board Directors

Digital boardrooms are innovative, performance-driven and advanced to lead the trend of contemporary leadership and create the momentum for the digital paradigm shift.

At today’s digital dynamic, as businesses change shape, size, expansion, and transformations, they need conditioning, improvement, and navigation. Board directors are the directorship and leadership role, to help the organization steer in the right direction, to explore unknown, and have confidence and insight to take the right path for reaching the destination. Digital boards as the strategic advising role are also the “mastermind” behind digital transformation to oversee strategies, set policies, catalyze changes, and monitor performance. The real BoD’s dilemma is that driving the business forward is extremely difficult, it means looking into an unknown future and attempting to define the landscape with its risks and opportunities. What are the digital traits of contemporary board directors, and how to improve the digital boardroom effectiveness and maturity?

“T” shaped expertise:
Most of the board directors are seasoned executives with years of experience. As a senior leadership role, they should be the specialized generalists with “T” shaped expertise. The high performing board is composed of those who can complement each other’s expertise, close blind spots via cognitive difference, and bridge decision-making gaps via updated knowledge and unique insight. The breadth and depth of the “T” in the context of the boardroom has to respond to the business challenges such as continuous digital disruptions often led by emerging technologies, or the overwhelming growth of information and shortened knowledge cycle. To digitize the boardroom, the T-shaped directors are in demand to bring the breadth of the business ecosystem or the across-industry perspective and the depth of the domain knowledge and expertise to the table. The vertical bar of the “T” represents depth in one field, the horizontal bar represents the ability to collaborate across other disciplines and to apply knowledge in areas of expertise. The "T" metaphor is something invented to talk the talk of managers in over specialized industrial settings. The great board directors are lifetime learners who become more rectangular shaped and display more deeply skilled in many different areas, and they keep gaining strength and expertise in new areas as they continue to grow and gain strength and practice leadership influence. Collectively, the digital board with a blend of expertise and capabilities can foster a culture of innovation and improve boardroom digital readiness and leadership maturity.

Multidimensional Intelligence: Besides IQ and EQ, today’s board directors should present multidimensional intelligence in order to make sound judgment and advise executives with a unique viewpoint. A mind with multidimensional intelligence has better abilities to minimize biases, be cautiously optimistic, be an effective listener and be more creative. The board as the senior leadership team should take cautious of those static mindsets which are clouded by past experiences sometimes inflating the ego; by conventional wisdom causing unconscious bias; or by emotional burden leading poor judgment. Today’s digital leaders must present multidimensional intelligence, in order to shift from bipolar judgmental to multidimensional discernment. With “VUCA” digital new normal, often the answer to many business questions is not just “right,” or “wrong,” but there are many shades in between. To lead effectively, the board needs to be able to leverage diverse viewpoints via listening, brainstorming, and questioning; make effective decisions via applying critical thinking, creative thinking, independent thinking, strategic thinking, and systems thinking, and become the “mastermind” behind the digital transformation.

Profundity: The board as the directorship role has to exemplify leadership profundity, be able to see beyond obvious, or look around the corner, to gain the deep insight, in order to dig into the root cause of the problems or set the good policies to encourage progressive changes. Many times people make a poor judgment, not because of ignorance, but because of the lack of deep thinking or contextual understanding. Great leaders lead by influence, not via brute force. Insightful leaders not just talk at the front but observe from behind. Profundity is the essential leadership trait to define and differentiate the senior leaders such as the board directors from the rest. The profound leaders have high influence competence, and will be more flexible and less rigidly tied to the top-down, command-and-control environment, they can lead via expertise,  insight and they are open to change. The key to digitizing the boardroom and catalyze the organizational success is to integrate the next generation of leaders, tap into their way of looking at the world, solve problems with very collaborative working styles, evaluate talent cohesively, and mind the business capability gap seamlessly.

We live in a world where change is the new norm and if we don't embrace it, accept it, roll with it or make it happen, we're not going to be successful. While there are many components of leadership, one of the most important ones is the ability to adapt, model and influence change. The is particularly important in the boardroom. Because great board directors play a critical role in steering changes and driving digitalization. The leadership team such as board must push the change agenda, and pull the resources to achieve it. Each person has a different level of knowledge (the consciousness about a problem) and reacts to environmental changes. Change and learning need to go hand-in-hand. Without learning agility, you cannot make change progressively. The learning plasticity significantly enforces people’s adaptability. It also makes it possible for everyone to be on the same page speaking the same language and fosters an atmosphere of openness and innovation in the board to accelerate digitalization at the top.

Innovativeness: Digital is the era of innovation. BoDs are, in fact, in the unique position to practice out-of-the-box-thinking and bring a broader perspective to complement the business management’s possible “tunnel vision.” BoDs should participate, or even lead in the area of innovation from outliers’ viewpoint. The corporate board should play a significant role in both innovation management and management innovation. It is about how to remove reactive thinking and negative self-talk, and add proactive interactions no matter what is the situation; eliminate stereotypical thinking and leverage intuitive listening to challenges conventional thinking as a sole path; adds the new perspective via intuition. Innovation is too important to leave solely in the hands of the management team without any oversight from the board. Digital boardrooms are innovative, performance-driven and advanced to lead the trend of contemporary leadership and create the momentum for the digital paradigm shift.

In today's work environment, change is happening at a more rapid pace. Leadership is all about change via a clear vision and multidimensional intelligence. No one will have all answers, the success of the digital transformation is based on open leadership, seamless collaboration and collective effort. The exceptional BoDs who present the above digital leadership can amplify their leadership influence and enhance boardroom maturity.


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