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  • Adastrum Consulting


The rate of digital adoption, to the point of dependency, and the resulting speed of change in the workplace means all leaders, regardless of role or remit, require and understanding of data and digital models. It is easy to focus on the digital knowledge and technical skills required by leaders; however, it is also important to remember that as well as being leaders of change, they are also leaders of people. Without good people management, organisations will fail to engage the employees that enact organisational changes delaying progress.

Two leadership qualities have emerged as defining requirements for executives covering both technological understanding and the softer side of leadership, people skills.

Digital Intelligence (DQ)

It is not practical, nor possible, to expect leaders to be familiar with the fine details of every system and software development. Yet they do need sufficient knowledge of the workings and potential applications of new technology. DQ is the ability to transform digital data into actionable insight, which will help to grow and improve the business. It arms leaders with the understanding and experience to quickly and competently make important decisions. This ultimately benefits their organisation and can secure an advantage over competitors.

Automation will bring the biggest business opportunities in the next decade. It will enable organisations to scale up operations, maximise output and minimise errors. To prepare, companies are expected to double down on workplace AI1.

Identifying opportunities brought about by new technology is only part of the package. It can also avoid future technical debt and prevent executives from being dazzled by shiny new technology. Simply automating human-led operations, without appreciating the nuances, complexities and relevance of the process, could create more problems than it solves. Equally important is the ability to understand new technological threats. Recent high-profile data breaches have shown us that companies of all sizes can be targets for hackers, which can affect customer trust and organisational reputation as much as the bottom line. Keeping up with cyber security best practice will become a key consideration for leaders, helping to avoid breaking legislation and potential governance fines.

Emotional Intelligence (EQ)

Future success is not only dependent on leaders’ digital ability but also their aptitude for uniting teams. Without encouraging people to embrace innovation and new ways of working at every level of the organisation, digital strategy will remain on the page and the organisation will fail to progress.

In our increasingly complex world and rapidly changing world, EQ has become a highly prized attribute. Leaders at all levels are relied upon to support staff wellbeing during periods of uncertainty and great change. Empathetic individuals are able to understand and influence others and forge strong professional connections – invaluable leadership traits.

The ability to build relationships can add value to customer and stakeholder relations, but also quash fear and instil confidence for teams. Learning to match the most effective tone and best communication approach to different platforms has become increasingly important throughout the pandemic. This will continue to be valued as organisations adapt to hybrid, flexible and remote working models, and as more global teams are managed across different geographies.

To read more about the leadership behaviours possessed by great digital leaders, download our latest white paper, The D Suite: Digital, Data, Disruption and Dependency.

1 2021 Predictions, Forrester, November 2021

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