Leadership & Management

Reimagining leadership in the digital age

Health Industry Hub | December 6, 2020 |
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Leadership & Management: As the digital economy continues to reshape work and business practices, leaders need to develop new approaches to guide their teams and organisations to enhance future growth.

A study of more than 4,000 leaders worldwide found that most leaders are holding their teams and organisations back by clinging to outdated leadership concepts and practices.

According to the study, leading in today’s world is about creating conditions for success so that everyone can contribute their best efforts to a common cause. This goal of building a community of leaders relies on four components: enhancing customer value, serving a higher purpose, strengthening connectivity, and fostering creativity and continuous innovation.

Most leaders are failing to adapt their leadership to radical changes in the economy and workforce.

Digitalisation, upstart competitors, the need for speed and agility and an increasingly diverse and demanding workforce are requiring new qualities of leadership. However, few leaders are developing the attributes that will enable them to lead in the digital economy.

Many leaders are clinging to outdated leadership mind-sets and behaviours – such as rigid plans and protocols, a top-down management style, resistance to transparency, and a command-and-control approach – thereby holding their teams and organisations back. Leaders also suffer from blind spots where they so cherish existing practices and policies that they can’t perceive the changes occurring all around them.

Many leaders have become effectively paralysed by the dilemmas that new ways of working present. Leaders at many organisations lack the adaptability and humility to balance these tensions.

As some leadership behaviours fall away, others remain valuable, and new ones are becoming crucial.

While many old-school leadership attributes are obsolescing, others remain essential: clarity of vision, integrity, ethics and leading by example, among others.

And the digital economy is necessitating new behaviours and attributes: purpose-driven leadership, data-driven decision making, empathy and authenticity, inclusiveness, and the ability to collaborate across boundaries.

Digital savvy and trust top the list of required leadership traits. Trailblazing leadership means developing competence in the behaviours that are emerging, ensuring that you also possess the attributes that are proving timeless, and actively disowning those leadership traits that no longer serve in the digital economy.

Four mind-sets underpin leadership in the digital economy.

Underlying individual competencies, four distinct mind-sets provide a foundation for leadership in the digital world:

  1. The producer – The producer mind-set emphasizes generating outcomes through digital expertise, analytics, innovation, speed and a focus on customers.
  2. The investor – The investor mind-set enables a leader to serve larger purposes than growth and shareholder returns: sustainability, community benefits and long-term values.
  3. The connector – The connector mind-set focuses on relationship building, networking and collaborating to create value, where old-school rigidity and rivalries would limit available perspectives and often crush the potential for partnerships.
  4. The explorer – The explorer mind-set brings curiosity, experimentation and a sense of possibility to the table.

Leaders will need to cultivate all four mind-sets and foster them across the organisation.

To promote leadership that suits a fast-moving, digital economy in your company, articulate a powerful leadership vision and emphasise the character traits that will work best.

Set an example yourself. Detect leadership talent in young employees. Connect and empower your employees. Focus on community and emphasise joint achievements rather than individual accomplishments. Lose the hierarchy and focus on community. Align your hiring and development practices with the skills and mind-sets your next-generation leaders will need. Insist on diversity and inclusion.

“Successful leaders are the ones who don’t just see what the future might bring; they create it. They are the ones who don’t just talk about the power of purpose; they live it. They are the ones who don’t just embrace inclusion and diversity; they measure and reward it. They are the ones who have learned how to lead teams and companies with the courage, freedom, and joy that comes from knowing that they are building new and amazing communities of leaders. They are the ones who have unleashed the energy in their organisations by creating communities of leaders who are producers, investors, connectors, and explorers,” concludes the study report.

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