Developing Digital-Savvy Leaders: You May Already Be 80% There

Wherever your company is on the digital journey, you can improve your chances of success by choosing leaders who are distinguished by their brightness, endurance, drive, and agility.

Digital Transformation has up-ended everything we know about what it takes to lead a business. Or has it? There’s no doubt that technological advances—from Big Data and artificial intelligence to the power of social media to elevate or wound a brand in one viral tweet-storm—are push-pulling businesses to compete and operate in entirely new ways. 
But do organizations need to select and develop their leaders in entirely new ways as well? Have all the conventional attributes been rendered ineffective? Is there a fresh set of capabilities to take their place?
Like so many situations in life, we believe the 80/20 rule applies here. Eighty percent of the attributes that have always made leaders effective remain the same. The other 20 percent comprises a small set of new leadership behaviors—skills that can be picked up and sharpened—that are essential to lead in these dynamic times. In this blog, I’ll discuss the foundational traits of a strong leader and in my next blog, the coachable capabilities essential for digital transformation.
The good news: leadership fitness for the digital age is not a total do-over. The better news: there’s a practical blueprint to get you there
The basics—more important than ever
Based on research and our experience working with global enterprises in multiple sectors, we see four inherent enablers of an effective leader. Essentially, these traits make up the foundation—the 80 percent—of effective leadership, and they remain just as relevant today.
Brightness: Unrelated to formal education, brightness is the ability to quickly consume information and draw conclusions. It’s more important than ever because traditional business models are crumbling. Modern leaders can’t look to the past for meaningful parallels to guide their decision-making. Given the pace of disruption, leaders need to intuit situations on-the-fly.
Endurance: Endurance is harnessing intellectual stamina to reach a workable solution. It’s more important than ever because globalization, matrixed organizational structures, and greater customer engagement are driving up the number of inputs a leader must sift through. Being able to deliver against a tsunami of data points—quickly and confidently—requires a high degree of mental strength.   
Drive: Drive used to be the calling card of the Type A leader—a burning desire to be personally successful. Today’s leaders understand that success is found through collaboration, team-building, and motivating the business group or company to achieve a vision. It’s more important than ever because the digital revolution demands large-scale cultural change in the organization, led by its top executives. 
Agility:  An agile or adaptable leader moves through different disciplines seamlessly. It’s more important than ever because digital leaders are continuous change managers. The digital revolution is redefining how, where, and why work gets done—and what skills are needed. Upskilling and adapting the workforce to this new reality requires nimble leaders who can decouple from convention.
Wherever your company is on the digital journey, you can improve your chances of success by choosing leaders who are distinguished by their brightness, endurance, drive, and agility. If you’re not already assessing for these traits, you should start. In my next blog, I’ll discuss how layering in three key coachable skills is the “missing 20 percent” that can make the difference between success and stagnation.