How should we define the keys to successful leadership now that we are fully immersed in the Digital Era? This post shares diverse perspectives on the core characteristics and offers preliminary thoughts on integrating ideas and identifying themes. Readers are invited to contribute additional ideas, insights, and analysis.
As the Founder of both the Social Media in Organizations (SMinOrgs) Community and the Global Center for Digital Era Leadership (GCDEL), I regularly think about the keys to successful leadership, especially in the Digital Era. Last summer I decided to formalize my thinking by developing a set of core characteristics for Digital Era leaders. After working on an initial list of defining traits, I thought it might be worthwhile to crowdsource additional ideas. So I posed the following question via the Digital Era Thinkers (DET) Blog, on LinkedIn, and in a number of digital communities:
Thinking across sectors and disciplines, but focusing on the role of digital technology in organizations, economies, and societies, what do you think are the most important aspects for leaders to be successful?
The response was fantastic. Dozens of people weighed in, many providing thoughtful, interesting, and enlightening insights and perspectives that highlighted the complexity of the issue.
It was immediately evident this was going to be a bigger undertaking than I initially thought. So I asked Jerry Carducci (who has written guest posts for both the DET Blog and the SMinOrgs S.M.A.R.T. Blog) to join me in creating a unifying structure to make sense of the ideas and themes that had already emerged, as well as the new thinking that was likely to develop as the project continued to evolve. We then invited Karin Wills, another thoughtful Digital Era thinker, to join the project as well.
The raw feedback to my initial query (including some responses from me) offers great food for thought. Click on the link below to download the Word document that captures the comments to date:
A few things to keep in mind as you review these comments:
- The comments are grouped by source, which are listed in alphabetical order. All the sources are hyperlinked, though most require membership to access the details. If you have problems with the hyperlinks, please send a message to DEL@gcdel.org and we'll help you troubleshoot.
- The comments are listed in chronological order within each source, with the oldest listed first. They are copied exactly as they were originally typed, with no editing. The authors’ names are not included because most of the comments were made in semi-private spaces.
Additional thinking on the subject can also be found through the following:
- Social Power And The Coming Corporate Revolution
- S.M.A.R.T. News: Social Leadership I
- Recent discussions on GovLoop
- How Will the Advancement in Technology Affect Leadership Styles in the Future
- Government 2.0 Club discussion (beginning April 9, with link to post above)
Integrating Ideas and Identifying Themes
As Jerry dived into the details and we had several discussions about how to integrate our own perspectives with the input of others, we identified a few key themes, including:
- A Digital Era leader can be characterized by both the presence and absence of specific characteristics. We must think about not only what they should do, but what they should not do.
- The distinctions between what it takes to successfully lead a technology company and what it takes to lead other types of organizations are becoming less pronounced.
- Certain leadership characteristics (e.g., strategic thinking) are timeless, whereas others (e.g., relationship management) require a degree of redefinition. Still others may be altogether new.
Here's one proposed way of organizing the requisite skills (click to enlarge the image). We know there are others and will continue refining our perspective, but this provides something concrete for people to consider.
As we move forward with the project, we’d like to invite more people to weigh in on the fundamental question, as well as some of the nuances that the initial set of perspectives has surfaced. Specifically, we’d love to hear people’s thoughts on the following:
- What characteristics (including traits, knowledge, skills and behaviors) do you think leaders need to have to be successful in the Digital Era?
- Do these characteristics vary based on leadership role within the organization (e.g., team based, mid-level, C-Suite and board room)? Should they be weighted differently?
- Do factors such as sector (e.g., public, private, nonprofit, education, healthcare) create a different set of critical success factors? How about factors like workforce characteristics, market and other demographics, or geography?
- Would the same factors apply to cultural, social and political leaders as they do to organizational leaders?
- Are there hidden and forthcoming trends that should be factored in the analysis?
We look forward to and welcome your views along these lines, as well as any additional thoughts and insights you’d like to share.
- Courtney Shelton Hunt, PhD
- Jerry Carducci
- Karin Wills