The digital age – sometimes known as the knowledge society or networked society – has been marked by several key structural changes that are reshaping/redefining leadership.
Rapid and far-reaching technological changes, globalization leading to the dynamic spread of information, a shift from physical attributes toward knowledge and more dispersed, less hierarchical organizational forms of organization have reshaped the concept of leadership and in a larger context societies.
One of the remarkable things about leadership is how little the underlying theory of the concept has changed for centuries.
The modern age is a game-changer for business and promises to transform the role of leaders and the qualities demanded of them.
Therefore automation of work and the digital disruption of business models place a premium on leaders who can create a vision of change and frame it positively.
Different ages require different kinds of leadership, but researchers and opinion leaders had claimed that there are certain universal characteristics that are timeless.
Across the world, leaders in different fields have started to embrace the digital revolution and recognize the power of game-changing technology.
Arguably, competent leadership is the most important skill of all in the digital age. It is important because this is a rapidly evolving, messy, risky, unpredictable time and none of us can be sure where technological development will take us. In such an environment, outstanding leaders are the most important currency there is.
So what are the qualities that leaders need in the digital age? Are they so different from the qualities we have seen in leaders until now?
The World Economic Forum (WEF) had said in one of its reports that traditional skills have not been supplanted but now co-exist with a mix of new factors.
WEF identified some qualities required from leaders in modern age.
- Digital leadership can be defined by a leader’s contribution to the transition toward a knowledge society and their knowledge of technology. Digital leaders have an obligation to keep up with the ongoing global revolution. They must understand technology, not merely as an enabler but also for its revolutionary force.
- Leadership must be driven by an attitude of openness and a genuine hunger for knowledge. Of course, no rule dictates that leaders must be literate in coding or that they graduated from machine-learning but yes, there is an imperative to understand the impact of breakthrough technologies.
- Today’s leaders must have the ability to identify technological trends across different sectors, such as big data, cloud computing, automation, and robotics. However, first and foremost they must possess sufficient knowledge and the vision to use these resources most effectively.
Another agency, the Association of Chartered Certified Accountant (ACCA), had identified personality traits, including emotional stability and curiosity, as some of the qualities required from business leaders in the digital age.
It said: “The attributes that theorists believe are essential in a good leader inevitably shift over time, but a few core qualities are consistently at the top of any list. A leader’s personality has always been and will always be predominant. Meta-analysis of academic studies carried out over the past 50 years has suggested that specific personality traits, including emotional stability and curiosity, are twice as important as IQ in predicting the effectiveness of a leader. Then there are the behavioural traits that help leaders to deliver results: motivational skills, team building and emotional intelligence, as well as that elusive and hard-to-define quality, charisma.”