The spread of digital technology is rapidly transforming business and has driven a profound change in the organizational processes, business models, organizational forms and forms of collaboration that underpin success in many industries.
But what are the implications of this transformation for the leaders who are expected to lead in this new world? What new skills do leaders need? What new issues and challenges does this create for leaders? What new opportunities does it present? To put it simply, what does it take to be a “digital leader” in this radically different context?
Leading digital transformation is about developing a set of leadership skills and capabilities that allow leaders to deal with this new complexity. This new leadership challenge has a number of dimensions. First, leaders must be prepared to deal with generational change in the workplace. Organizations are now characterized by at least three generations working together as the millennials join the workplace. Second, leaders must be ready for and facilitate disruptive thinking. This means creating a context where challenging the current ways of thinking is standard practice, both to develop products, services, and business models that are disruptive and to defend existing businesses from digital disruption by others. Third, digital transformation involves risk and leading in this context is therefore about fostering a culture of risk-taking where risk is understood and managed. Finally, leading digital transformation is about creating an environment where experimentation is the norm. In this new world of digital transformation, the information needed for traditional strategic planning is often not available, so the only options are either to do nothing or to experiment. But how do leaders empower experimentation without creating chaos?
Professor Nelson Phillips’ research interests include organization theory, entrepreneurship, technology strategy, and innovation. He has published more than 100 articles in leading management publications and has written 5 books. He is currently the co-editor of Innovation: Organization and Management. Professor Phillips teaches courses in strategy, organizational behavior, digital business, and leadership at Imperial College Business School.