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The impact of digital leadership: Why it matters more than ever before

By Academy Xi

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The rapid evolution of technology continues to transform industries at pace, with the global pandemic having accelerated the process. Strengths and vulnerabilities of organisations and businesses continue to be revealed, reflecting where they are in their digital transformations and those that don’t adopt digital leadership will continue to scramble and risk being left behind. Read on to discover why digital leadership is now a crucial pillar for modern business strategy.


What is digital leadership?

A key driver of successful digital transformation in any organisation is the active presence of digital leadership.

At its core, digital leadership is leveraging technology to inspire, innovate and drive organisational success and growth. It requires more than guiding a team—it’s about pioneering change in an ever-evolving digital landscape. 

Digital leaders work to foster a positive digital culture within the company, which includes identifying needs, seeing potential and enabling staff with the right training so they are actively engaged and empowered in the transformation process.

As associate partner at McKinsey, Rod Farmer, states “We’re rapidly moving from a job-based to skills-based economy requiring more nimble, tech savvy, and multi-disciplinary teams…” 


Let the digital leader, lead

Annual Global CEO survey from PwC revealed that the top greatest challenge businesses face is labour and skills shortages, with almost nine in 10 CEOs in Australia stating that they’re focusing on investment for upskilling their people in the next 12 months.

While it is promising that training investment is being prioritised by CEO’s, it is crucial that there is digital leadership to inform and steer the digital strategy. Upskilling needs to include employee engagement and consultation, as opposed to a reactive approach of throwing a budget at ‘digital skills’ without a specific digital agenda.

PwC research shows that 90% of C-Suite executives think their company is listening to their employees needs when it comes to introducing new tech, but only half of their people agree this is the case.

Digital leaders can be the bridge between senior management and teams to ensure changes are implemented with strategic purpose, clear communication, and relevant training. But it is important that there is buy-in from the top of companies when it comes to how to approach and manage digital transformation and that digital leaders are given the power to lead.

The following are some other focus areas embraced by digital leaders:

Having a strategic digital vision

Digital transformation isn’t just about adopting the latest technology. Digital leaders can see how technology can be used to enhance business strategy and outcomes. They know how to align this vision with the overall goals of the company, informing the foundation of the digital strategy, and ensure that any digital initiative is strategic. This is not to say that the digital leader has all the answers, but they remain curious and are guided by best practice, research, and examples of where tech is working for other industries or businesses.

Adopting and integrating new technology

While not necessarily tech experts, digital leaders are comfortable with using tech. They recognise the potential it can present to increase productivity, streamline processes, and improve experiences for all stakeholders. They work proactively to find successful ways of integrating relevant tech into the workplace and ensure teams are empowered by getting them upskilled to know how to use it with confidence and impact.

A customer-centric approach

Understanding the customer journey is a critical aspect of digital leadership. By focusing on improving the customer experience, leaders recognise the role that digital interfaces and tools have on shaping how their market engages with the business. This leads to prioritising the user experience and how these digital assets can be improved at each point of the customer journey for the best outcomes.

Making data-driven decisions

Insights from McKinsey Global Institute show that data-driven organisations are 23 times more likely to score customers, six times as likely to retain said customers and 19 times more likely to be profitable.

Knowing how to use and leverage data analytics to gain business insights and make informed, data-based decisions is an invaluable asset that digital leaders can harness. Digital leaders can also scout for members of teams who show an interest in analytics to offer them training opportunities and then share their learnings with colleagues for further engagement.


Navigating the digital transformation landscape

While digital transformation offers a myriad of opportunities for businesses to experience exponential growth, it also can present a host of challenges. Digital leaders are integral in helping their organisations through the growing pains. It’s important to remember that transformation is ongoing as tech evolves – not a stand-alone project to be completed.

We’ve outlined some of the most common hurdles encountered by teams during digital transformation that digital leaders can help to overcome.

Cybersecurity concerns

With increased digitisation comes heightened risk. Understanding the importance of quality safeguarding across systems and infrastructures is a priority consideration for digital leaders when creating strategies. Leaders can ensure that the appropriate skill set exists within IT and that all teams are trained in best practice for secure data management.

Resistance to change

Some members of staff may be reluctant to adopt new technologies – change can be unsettling. This resistance is often due to fear of the unknown or concerns they may have about their job security. Digital leaders can help individuals and teams by taking the time to understand people’s existing strengths and skills, career goals and concerns. This information can inform which concepts and tools could be beneficial and the relevant training arranged. 

As fast paced as changes in tech are, it’s critical to bring your people on the journey rather than leave them behind, so easing them into new approaches rather than overloading is wise and can be guided by empathetic digital leadership.

Lack of in-house tech skills

It always pays to provide training to existing team members wherever possible before recruiting outsiders – it will often save money and increase staff morale and loyalty. As highlighted with the previous point, training can also help with resistance to change.

Opportunities for staff to shadow other colleagues or participate in an internship or secondment within another department to gain new tech skills is another avenue leaders can explore.

Integration and compatibility 

Identifying where it is possible to integrate new tech and tools with existing systems can help organisations to save on budget and time. Digital leaders can guide this process and minimise incompatibilities where possible to avoid inefficiencies and business operation disruptions.

“There is no alternative to digital transformation. Visionary companies will carve out new strategic options for themselves – those that don’t adapt, will fail.” – Jeff Bezos, Amazon


The strategic role of digital leadership

Digital leaders drive growth, enhance competitive advantage, and increase organisational agility in a fast-paced digital world. They know that successful digital transformation is not just about adopting technology—it’s about transforming the entire business model.

Continuous learning and adaptation is at the heart of digital transformation and having great digital leaders at the helm ensures teams are supported through the ongoing process. This level of support and guidance can have an amazing impact on employee engagement and productivity as it fosters ongoing collaboration, which can increase a sense of shared purpose and a common goal as a team. An innovative, learning-oriented workplace boosts morale, supports staff retention and in turn leads to increased productivity and profitability.

Ultimately, all businesses and organisations need a robust digital strategy and it won’t be successfully implemented and realised without strong digital leadership in place. If companies want to experience sustainable growth and innovation they will require digital leaders who embrace the evolution of technology and empower teams to do the same.  


How to become a digital leader

Whether you’re already working in a digital specific role, or an existing leader wanting to upskill, investing in quality digital leadership training will give you the essential skills to hit the ground running.

Academy Xi offers Digital Leadership: Elevate. Developed by industry leading experts, the self-paced practical training includes 1:1 mentoring sessions and the latest digital leadership practices and problem-solving skills.

Empower yourself and amplify your career prospects.

If you have any questions, our experienced team is on hand to discuss your training and payment options. Speak to a course advisor and take the first steps on your digital leadership journey.

Keen to equip a group of your people with digital leadership skills? Get in touch to discuss our team training options.