Like it or don’t, the present is digital, and so is the future. With the rapidly advancing technology that’s reshaping the world as we know it, the seemingly abrupt changes we’ve been facing for the past decade in virtually all aspects of our lives were bound to happen one way or the other.
Digital technology is actively transforming everything from society, economies, and politics to businesses and our day-to-day work lives. Naturally, the up-to-now familiar models of organizations got broken down by all-things-digital, with a broad set of new challenges created in parallel.
But, how has digital technology impacted leadership on the whole?
The Digital Age, which is also known as the networked society or the knowledge society, has, on a conceptual level, brought about several vital structural changes that are actively altering leadership day by day. Top four changes to acknowledge are:
- Quick, almost instant and far-reaching technological changes
- A shift from physical attributes toward knowledge
- Globalization, and a dynamic spread of information as its result
- Less hierarchical and more dispersed organizational forms of organization
However, despite this change, the core values of proper leadership haven’t and potentially won’t change much in the times to come. If anything, they’ll serve as the basis for the digital upgrade, with the idea of making the employees and their workplace much better, without having it negatively impact the entire organization.
The Impact of the Digital Age on Leadership
Quality leadership is a mixture of inner and outer traits. The sensibility for interpersonal relationships and emotional intelligence in leaders play just as significant roles as behavioral techniques do, techniques like ways leaders deliver critique and results, as well as what they do to motivate the employees. Besides these core abilities that haven’t changed much, there are a few others that have substantially changed due to the unprecedented impact of technology.
Here’s how leadership has changed impacted by the Digital Age:
Digital Leaders and Global Revolution
For digital leadership to mean anything else but “leadership” with prefix “digital” attached to it, leaders need to understand their roles have gotten an upgrade. They are now responsible of a) leading their teams, and b) helping the employees transition to the digital society.
Still, digital leadership is not only about navigating the process; it is primarily about the leaders keeping up with the global revolution, understanding it, and making it comprehensible for everyone else under them. In the Digital Age, technology can no longer be seen as side-help; it is now a revolutionary force that, if not mastered, may endanger everyone’s jobs.
Visionary Traits and Down-To-Earth Prospects
Today’s digital leaders must have a neck for identifying upcoming technological trends across different sectors and foreseeing ways their establishments will benefit from them.
Trends like robotics, automation, SEO coaching, big data, cloud computing, and similar are no longer catch-phrases used to make a brand sound serious and future-oriented. They are now the reality of everyday business operations, and leaders must know how to handle them. It is up to the Digital Age leaders to initiate the implementation of new initiatives, platforms, tools, and processes with the idea of improving both employee and user experience.
However, to operate right, leaders should know their limits and know how and where to get their missing knowledge rather than pretend they know it all.
The Decline of Traditional Roles
In the Digital Age, we’re witnessing a rapid decline of traditional hierarchical models of leadership with the digital leader more resembling a community manager than an authoritarian.
Additionally, the concept of leadership has transformed from the top management’s absolute power to employee inclusion and open consultation processes. These processes will continue to grow, with employees getting more power in decision-making.
Horizontal structures are predicted to replace and even suppress the hierarchical leadership model for more reasons than one. One of those reasons is that the Digital Age doesn’t tolerate tardiness and much bureaucracy, which hierarchical organizations are. Furthermore, the Digital Age requires almost-instant responses and immediate reactions.
Modern-day leaders working in a digital environment must be comfortable with sharing their leadership with the employees, along with being open to suggestions, employee ideas, and even critique. A leader in the Digital Age is one free of ego and a person always working for everyone’s benefit, not only his/her own.
The Unity of Cause
One of the most amazing things technology and digitalization have encouraged is global connectivity. Although globalization is, for the most part, observed as a negative trait, its impact on the business arena is stellar.
Globalization has opened a dialogue. Now, with professionals around the world connected in a single click, it’s easier than ever to compare each other’s work conditions, company values, business processes, and overall technological advancement. What is more, employees can now find jobs online themselves, in companies that are transparent about the way they hire, work, pay, etc.
On top of that, everyone (and not just the business world) is raising their voice against injustice and maltreatment, with more and more employees sharing their opinions and experiences online, through social networks like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and others. A single negative employee review shared online may harm the entire organization’s reputation, jeopardizing both the leader’s position and the company itself.
Leaders in the Digital Age are faced with a sombre task of keeping their own and their company’s image on a superior level, not only for the image itself but for the actual employee satisfaction. This is a serious task that requires much re-grouping and smart leadership.
Digital strategies of the knowledge society are continuous processes that are only beginning to shape the reality of business and other spheres. Digital leadership, as a crucial segment of fully-functioning organizations, needs to keep up with digital trends in order to continually advance.