Estimated reading time: 3 minutes
We’ve published a few articles about digital transformation over the years. It’s an important concept and organizations are going to spend more resources adding and improving technology in their business operations.
But as organizations add technology, they might need to change the way the people side of the business operates. Meaning, we can’t add new technologies and not change the way we lead. I believe that if we change leadership as we’re digitally transforming the business, then technology can add a much-needed human touch (versus detracting from it).
Harvard Business Review recently published an article on “Reinventing Your Leadership Team”. It’s a good read worth checking out. In the article they talk about some of the qualities that leaders should have for future business success. Here are a few to think about:
Developing organizational strategy. Organizational leaders need to be able to take care of everyday issues and think about the future – all at the same time. This could mean considering both local and global operations. Or balancing practical everyday problems with long-term innovative solutions. Organizations are multi-dimensional, and we need leaders who can operate in this environment.
Using technology. This might sound a bit dated, but senior leadership needs to learn how to use the same technologies that their customers and employees use. I’m amazed at the organizations that don’t understand how their systems impact people. Leaders need to see the benefits and challenges of digital transformation so they can come up with effective strategies (see above). Don’t rely on other people for first-hand information; they can provide more value in different ways.
Maneuvering company culture. Some might label this office politics, but I think there’s a negative connotation to that term. We’re really talking about culture. Leaders need to know how to get things done within the organizational structure. Sometimes politics will be involved, but not always. Sometimes it could be bureaucracy. Again, this is one of those moments where it might be better for leaders to try to do something themselves rather than delegating, to understand how easy or difficult it is to get something done within the company.
Able to admit AND fix mistakes. I’m combining leadership qualities 4 and 5 here because these two qualities need to be thought of as both separate and combined. I remember when I first became a manager, my boss telling me not to be afraid of making mistakes. Just admit it and fix it. Some people are willing to fix a mistake but never admit it, which can hurt their credibility. Then the emphasis shifts to the second part – fix the mistake. We’re human. We’re going to make mistakes. Some leaders will admit the mistake and never fix it. Don’t hesitate to get your trusted team involved in the decision-making process. And if a mistake happens, own it and fix it.
I wish that I could say these are easy leadership qualities – they’re not. And they’re often difficult to learn in a training program. These are the qualities that we develop by doing them. Being involved in strategy sessions. Actually using the technology. Spending time in the trenches. And making mistakes.
Current leadership teams looking to develop future leaders should look for opportunities to provide exposure to high potential and high performers, so they start working on these things. And people already in senior leadership roles might want to consider mentoring future leaders and sharing their stories.
Organizations need leadership to guide their business and lead their teams. Having the right people is important. And making sure they have the right qualities is essential. Organizations want to think about leadership development now, so people are ready when they need to be.
Image captured by Sharlyn Lauby after speaking at the SHRM Annual Conference in Las Vegas, NV18