The best leaders have a propensity for looking for ways to leverage digital technology for competitive gain. If you want to be a great leader, you absolutely have to develop a digital mindset. It’s the only way you can help your business leverage data and information technologies in the pursuit of growth and profitability. Why, you ask?
Digital technology and media are omnipresent in business nowadays. We use it to perform tasks, communicate, collaborate, solve problems, share content and build knowledge. It’s the backbone of effective, efficient and flexible execution.
Every company needs leaders that understand and appreciate the potential of the internet of things, social media, big data, artificial intelligence and data analytics. Not only that, a solid leader must have a propensity to package together these digital technologies in order to drive desired outcomes and unlock hidden value within their companies.
Anything less from its leadership, and a business misses opportunities and risks losing ground in the marketplace. My firm actually developed a digital mindset assessment for that purpose, and I believe such a tool should be part of any hiring or promotion program.
An appropriate digital mindset doesn’t ensure success. However, it does position you to be a great contributor. Similarly, any deficiencies identified through the assessment enables the individual (and organization, if appropriate) to create a development plan that can address the weak spots.
Specifically, you’re looking for these five characteristics in your leaders. They indicate that the individual has the “right” digital mindset to make a difference to your business:
- Inquisitive: The digital mindset requires open mindedness. Today’s leaders need a thirst to understand all the capabilities that technology has to offer and get energized by the art of the possible. When first entering the workforce, I had a mentor with an inquisitive mind who was always open to new ideas and nonjudgmental of a person that offered one. He always asked me, “How can technology be applied to make this better?” The technique informs my approach to this day.
- Ambiguity Amenable: Digital technology is continuing to evolve. Consequently, there’s a lot of uncertainty and opacity that comes with the territory. Today’s leaders need to be comfortable operating in the grey area, constantly pioneering new ways to use technology to enhance employee engagement, drive customer satisfaction and unleash competitive advantage.
Steve Jobs was very at home in grey areas. How else could he have endeavored to create something as seemingly preposterous as a phone that could play music, take pictures and access the Internet–and make a go of it?
- Technology Adept: There’s no need for leaders to be early adopters of technology, though that would be great. However, they must be practiced in the use of technology and not harbor any fear of it. I get comments from my team about my fearlessness using technology that I’m not familiar with. They think it’s really something that I’ve designed websites and architected AI-based tools for use in our practice. I don’t consider that particularly pioneering, It’s an important part of leading in the digital age.
- Digitally Informed: Today’s leaders are expected to be contributing architects to new digital solutions for their businesses, so they must be cognizant of what’s available, what it delivers and how it can be applied to drive business transformation. It’s the only way for leaders to proactively integrate the technology into the daily workflow.
I’m working with a client right now who may be the most digitally informed person that I’ve ever met. He has all the latest gadgets and apps at his fingertips, and knows how to use them in the most unobstructed way. It makes him a terrific leader for the digital age–always on the look-out for how technology can be tamed to drive value for the business. Likewise, understanding the value of data and how it can be synthesized is key to unlocking additional business potential. It’s by combining digital technology and new information insights that create game changing solutions for companies. Today’s need to be information savvy to do the work needed tomorrow.
- Future Fixated: A leader with a superior digital mindset possesses an unwavering focus on tomorrow. They keep delighting the customer top of mind and are always thinking of better ways to exceed all expectations through the proper use of technology.
Jeff Bezos is clearly fixated on the future. He’s always looking ahead and determining how technology can be used in new and interesting ways that delight. His startup Blue Origin has a vision of millions of people living and working in space. That’s future fixated!
All told, these five characteristics indicate the underpinnings of the “right” digital mindset to be effective to today’s ultra-competitive business world. You need to identify, develop and place innovative, entrepreneurial, critical thinking leaders who thirst to pull the future forward on behalf of their businesses.
They’ll define tomorrow by combining and harnessing digital technologies in new and exciting ways. This article was originally featured on Inc.com