The Five Skills of a Successful Digital Leader: Do you have what it takes?

Before embarking on a digital transformation, take a moment to ask yourself this question: “Do I, as a leader, have the skill set necessary to successfully implement a digital transformation in my business?” This is an important starting point because, as we have seen, 70% of companies fail in their transformation. I’m certain that you do not want to fall into that category. So what skill sets are necessary to increase your chances of success? Let’s look at the five main skills of a digital leader as outlined in the book The Technology Fallacy put out by MIT presses.

The first two involve VISION. According to MIT, a full 42% of the skills necessary for a successful digital transformation are related to having a clear vision. The first is Transformative Vision, an acute knowledge of markets and trends, strong business acumen and ability to solve problems. And the second skill is to have a Forward-Looking Perspective. This means to have clear objectives, sound strategies and foresight. Thus, the management team, and you as a leader, need to know where you are headed and where you are now so that you can communicate the direction to the team; in other words, you need a digital roadmap.  

The fact that vision is the most important skill for supporting a digital transformation should be reassuring. Many incorrectly think that the most important skill is a high-level Understanding of Technology, which can seem overwhelming. According to the MIT study, this third most important skill, which includes past experience with technologies and digital literacy, accounts for only 18% of its success.

Equally important is to be Change Oriented (also at 18%). Rather than being naturally change-averse, digital leaders must keep an open-mind towards change. As a leader, you surely know that you must model a growth mindset, rather than a fixed mindset, for your team to also be adaptable and innovative. And those attributes (open-mindedness, adaptability and innovation) are what will fuel your team through a transformation even when they encounter the inevitable issues along the way.

You may be surprised that Strong Leadership is actually the fifth most important skill set, accounting for only 11% of a project’s success. Based on the MIT study, strong leadership implies pragmatism, focus and strong-decision-making skills. Notice, it is more important to have a strong vision than strong leadership.

The remaining eleven percent is a combination of skills such as collaboration and team-building. These soft skills, while vital to running a company well, are less influential on the success of a digital transformation.

The takeaway from this comprehensive study? Put your time and effort into making your vision clear: where you want to go and how you are going to get there. So, start with outlining your own digital roadmap so that you too can communicate this vision clearly and keep your project on track to success.

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