New traits that are required for success in the era of digitization
We live in an age of digital disruption. We’re transforming traditional business models and challenging established tenets across all sectors.
Just look around and you’ll see it. Uber has redefined the taxi industry despite owning no cars. Airbnb, which has more rooms available than almost all the leading hotel chains, has never bought or built a hotel. Slack and WhatsApp are changing the way we communicate and collaborate both in and out of work.
In a world like this, business leaders can’t rely on classic approaches. You can’t be aloof to change or react to it, you need to embrace change and drive innovation. Being a leader in 2019 requires courage, collaboration, flexibility, and humility. You need to listen, learn, and be prepared to go to the places that new technology can take you.
Here are the five essential qualities that business leaders need to embrace to truly thrive in an age of digital disruption.
It’s okay to not know something. In fact, knowing what you don’t know is often the first step in the quest for personal growth and business innovation. Successful leaders are open about their limitations and accept the reality that, in a world of such fast change, no one person can know everything.
While knowing all the questions and knowing all the answers is essential for business, never assume that you really know it all. Surround yourself in a variety of talent and strive to learn something new every day.
Having humility is not a sign of weakness or lack of confidence. Demonstrating that you work to identify your limits and reach out for support in order to grow is one of the differences between being a boss and being a leader.
Change is constant. In a world of digital disruption, changes happen fast and happen often. When presented with new information, you have to be prepared to adapt. It’s not a sign of indecision or vacillation when you choose to change things up.
Saying you’re flexible is one thing, but it takes bravery and skill to know when to flex in order to make the most of an opportunity. Great leaders are able to adapt their behaviors and tactics in the short-term based on new information, without losing sight of the ultimate goal or strategy.
Many of the organizations that have prospered in this digital age have had a strong approach to engagement. They engage individuals and business partnership to harness ideas, increase their market share, embark on research and development, or to tap into sources of new talent.
This attitude is an asset to, not an expense of, a traditional mindset of protecting your intellectual property and business expertise in highly competitive environments.
While it’s already clear that technology disruption is transforming traditional business models, there is another factor at play that is challenging traditional forms of leadership: behavior. Whether your business is embracing technological change or not, your workforce is. As a result, their expectations, skills, and needs are changing.
In a world of community-funded projects from the likes of Kickstarter and Patreon, employees expect a level of collaboration with the businesses they work with. Day-to-day expectations, such as flexible working, have been enabled by technology and are increasingly becoming the norm.
Whatever your industry, engaging your key stakeholders will help you meet their expectations and help push your business to become a more adaptive and open organization.
Fortunately, it’s never been easier to stay in touch with your customers, partners, suppliers, and team members. Encourage feedback and discussion at all levels of your business from experts, staff, and customers. This desire to explore, discover, learn, and discuss is as much a mindset as a definable set of business-focused activities.
4. Be Data-Driven
Digital disruption is driven by data. While we have seen the sunset on the “Internet of Things” as a buzzword, increased connectivity has created more ways to gather information than ever before. As AI creates more sophisticated ways to turn this data into actionable business insights, you need to be prepared to shrug off your biases and gut feelings and listen to what the data is telling you.
With so much digital change occurring across all industries, you need to be able to use data to make informed business decisions. It’s important not to implement change for change’s sake. Interpreting data gathered from engaged stakeholders creates new opportunities that agile leaders can capitalize on for business gain.
Working out the changes you need to make is the easy part. Implementing them across multiple sites with people using many different languages is the hard part. And you need to do it quickly because timing is an issue in this age of digital immediacy.
It takes courage to trust what the data is saying and throw off your biases. It takes courage to open up to criticism and allow new voices to be heard. It takes courage to stand by your convictions, but more to let them go and adapt to new ideas. Most of all, it takes courage to look in the mirror and know that you alone are not enough and that it’s okay.
Everything that defines a great leader in a world of digital disruption comes down to having the courage at every level. From the personally introspective, to addressing your business strategy and then outward to blaze new trails in the business landscape.
It’s time to embrace a “no fear of failure” culture. Every innovator leaves a trail of bad, sometimes costly, mistakes in their wake. Yet these mistakes can come to define a leader, molding their ability and refining their skills, teaching them new lessons on the way. The most important thing to remember is that in a world of digital disruption, while there are no clear paths to success, standing still will leave you in the dust.
Today, we call the rapid change in business models and ways of working “digital disruption”. This makes it sound like a passing phase, but it isn’t. Today’s digital disruption will become the future tradition of doing business.
The change will happen and it will happen fast. Today’s business leaders stand on the frontier of a new business landscape and it’s up to you whether your business will thrive or flounder.
Written by: Rob White
This article was written by Rob White on behalf of ZZap, a leading supplier of the latest cash handling technology for businesses.