Strong leadership is essential for successful digital transformation. It needs to be displayed not only at the top of the organization but at all levels of management.

Business leaders need to demonstrate clear and decisive leadership as they guide their organizations into the new digital economy.

Our research shows that strong leadership is essential for successful digital transformation. Without adequate leadership, employees are likely to struggle to adapt to the increasingly complex, diverse and fast-paced digital work environment that awaits them. As a result, digital transformation will falter.

Our study of more than 750,000 “change journeys” shows that effective leadership doesn’t just come from the top of an organization – it radiates from the center. The executive must champion an organization’s digital transformation strategy but it needs to be demonstrated by all levels of management throughout the enterprise.

As I mentioned in my previous blog post, many business leaders believe they’re under-prepared to manage their workforces in the new digital environment. Development and training of managers, to equip them to lead workers through the process of digital transformation, needs to be conducted at all levels of the organization.

Effective leadership in a digital environment will require managers to foster a culture of collaboration and innovation. They’ll need to push decision-making as far as possible to the edges of the enterprise. This is going to be foreign to many managers.

Tight controls will frequently have to be relaxed to encourage workers to experiment. Responsible attitudes to failures and set-backs will have to be encouraged. Critical judgement will need to be exercised to assess contributions from intelligent systems, workers, peers and third-parties. Encouraging teamwork and co-operation, while managing disparate and often diverse workers, will be a common challenge.  The illustration below shows the how the key skills and competencies of managers will need to change in a digital work environment.

What being digital means for skills and competencies full

First and second level managers will probably have to make the biggest adjustments as they shift their focus from supervising workers to enabling them. These managers are a crucial link between line employees and senior management. Their training in new leadership skills and competencies is going to be vital.

Essential for all managers will be the ability to translate the organization’s strategy into action. A clear, comprehensive strategy, that details how the organization is going to transform itself into a digital enterprise, needs to be promoted and relayed at all levels of management. Without such a strategy, managers will struggle to perform their most important role – leadership.

In my next blog post, I’ll discuss the reasons organizations should include human capital requirements in their digital transformation strategies. Until then, take a look at these links. I’m sure you’ll find them useful.

Being digital: Embrace the future of work and your people will embrace it with you

Change or be changed: Shaping the IT workforce of the future

The Impact of Technology on the Future of Work: From Looking Digital to Being Digital