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  • Adastrum Consulting

LEADERSHIP IN THE AGE OF DIGITAL DEPENDENCY

Businesses have been in the midst of a digital revolution for years, but the coronavirus pandemic vastly accelerated the rate of adoption and our reliance on technology. In Spring 2020, consumers and businesses leapt 5 years in digital technology adoption in a mere 8 weeks1. The shift in business operations and consumer habits means almost all industries and organisations are exploiting some form of digital technology. Non-digital businesses are almost extinct. Our dependency on technology has deepened to the point of no return, therefore all leaders must be digital.

Thinking digital

To meet with rapid innovation and fast-changing working practices, digital transformation has become business as usual. Transformation is a never-ending journey. The frequency that new tools and ways of working emerges means organisations will constantly seek to improve processes and adapt to best serve customer needs. However, it is counter-productive to invest in innovation without investing in the leaders to implement it and the workforce to use it.

The leaders that successfully delivered the transformation that allowed businesses to operate with minimal friction during lockdown are in high demand. The pandemic has redefined the “art of the possible” for future transformation, changing expectations around the speed change can happen and the time required to implement it. Executives need to see digital strategy and business development plans as one and the same.

Drive to upskill and develop

For employers, recruiting, retaining and developing these leaders must be an important part of talent management and organisational growth plans. Digital skills hold the key to at least 2.4% of an organisation’s bottom line, however, it is concerning that 63% of workers do not believe they have the digital skills to fulfil new and emerging roles in their industry2. Bridging this gap is necessary to accelerate sustainable business success and hasten economic recovery.

Equally, with eyes set on making up for pandemic losses, building resilience and progressing, leadership development remains a top priority for organisations. Technical skills can become quickly outdated therefore, leadership development must support softer skills and a broader knowledge. Alongside recruiting and training for specific abilities required for execution, organisations must cultivate a wider understanding of digital innovation.

While event-based and face-to-face training has been on hold during the pandemic, there is concern that setbacks in development will delay progress and alienate talent. HR professionals are already adapting to manage recruitment and induction virtually but there is more to do. For them, digital competency will also unlock an understanding for how to use different platforms to deliver effective training. Using organisational data will also help HR functions to identify areas that require upskilling, predict where specific skills will be needed in future and recognise candidates to develop into future leaders.

Resilient agility

As ever, leadership is at the forefront of driving transformation and accelerating businesses forward. While it’s impossible to predict exactly what skills will be needed to navigate future disruption, it’s evident that a grounding in the digital economy and certain leadership behaviours are invaluable. Adaptability is an obvious part of a change-leader’s make up, however, balancing this with grit, fortitude and composure has helped individuals to see things through and take their organisations forward. This resilient agility ensures leaders can cope with uncertainty and its associated stress and simultaneously inspire their teams to success.

To read more about effective leadership for progress and change, download our latest white paper, The D Suite: Digital, Data, Disruption and Dependency.

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