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Are Your Leaders Ready for Digitalization?

By Verity Creedy

Verity Bissett-Powell We all used to be excited about the internet and how this fabulous technology had advanced our worlds. As a millennial, I struggle to remember a time when the internet wasn’t really a huge part of my life. Of course I remember my first computer with its now “quaint” black and white screen and massive square box, but it feels a little like a nostalgic dream. I love technology and how it connects me with my friends globally. I appreciate the convenience of checking my email while getting my hair cut. I do not miss going up and down a grocery store aisle with a trolley when I can click “order my favorites” online.

But I want to be honest and share with you one of my biggest secrets…all this new digital advancement stuff is scaring me. I don’t call for a pizza—I now click and watch when it is being prepared, baked, quality checked, and delivered. Calling for a taxi and worrying about how much cash I need to pay for it is extinct—there is an app which allows me to pick out the nearest car, learn interesting details about the driver, and payment is all taken care of without even a reach into my pocket.

And recently I tried on a garment which allowed me to touch its tag to the changing room mirror for an instant mirror-becomes-video reminder of how that coat looked on the catwalk. Is it me…or has everything that I smell, touch, and taste these days gone digital? Move over internet, you sweet archaic thing, you are not special anymore. You are old news. Digitalization is in vogue.

Digitalization – Crucial need for empathy

As you can see from my lifestyle examples above, it is clear that digitalization is not the exclusive action of digital businesses. Instead, it is a means of survival for all companies. As DDI’s partner, EY explains:

Exponential technology advances, greater consumer power and increased competition mean all industries face the threat of commoditization. The winners will act now, and build a strategic advantage that leaves their counterparts wondering what happened.”

Hear that? There will be winners and losers in this digitalization world. Companies will thrive and die based on the speed and success they have for executing digital developments.

So this got me wondering, what does digitalization mean for these company’s leaders? And how do you know if your leaders are ready? Evgeny Káganer, author of Five Skills Every Leader Needs to Succeed in the Digital World, believes that “Digital leadership is more than a job title; it's an entirely new mind-set.”

My fabulous colleagues Jay Anderson and Russ White wrote a recent blog explaining what this new mind-set might mean for leaders when driving change and being agile. They suggested four areas for consideration including: Be Kind, Be Honest, Work in Small Increments, and Be Responsible. These concepts of being kind, honest, and responsible emphasize the crucial need to demonstrate empathy for those taking digital risks and failing fast. The Wall Street Journal reinforces this view with their ”empathy strategy“ article, which highlights how innovative companies such as Cisco and Ford are implementing empathy training to improve management, retain employees, and guide innovative decisions. Seeing empathy as a cornerstone of digital leadership, DDI has even created an online game to try and make development of this behavior more accessible and engaging for leaders. Try it out for yourself - test your empathy effectiveness.

Leadership digitalization checklist

However, for truly successful digital leadership, I believe that we need to build on this even further. I have identified 10 behaviours that will be critical for leaders. These 10 areas have been constructed into a handy little checklist you can use when auditing the readiness of your leaders. 

  Best in Class On Occasion Blind Spot
1. Inherently curious about the market & competition.      
2. Demonstrates digital skills & capabilities.      
3. Can quickly navigate through organizational change.      
4. Champions alignment across the global matrix.      
5. Sells the vision and benefits of digital advances.      
6. Successfully attracts digitally-savvy talent.      
7. Empowers others to invent, without fear of failure.      
8. Expresses empathy & support to those innovating.      
9. Consistently acknowledges & rewards collaboration.      
10. Models determination for sustainable digitalization.      

When I break it down into these bite-sized behaviours, my heart’s frantic beating settles down. Digitalization, while fast, frantic, and fiercely competitive, is something for all leaders in all organizations to be aware of. But remember that these 10 areas can be recruited against, developed, and coached, to allow you the best chance of success.

Hopefully this will take some of the dread out of going digital. I know it has reassured me a little, so now I am more ready to line up against the other digitalization runners.

Verity Creedy heads up DDI’s European sales team and is based in London. When she’s not working with clients to identify talent solutions that address their business strategic aims, Verity can be found completing half marathons, window-shopping at unusual shoe stores, and telling people about her adoration for Taylor Swift. If you have any running tips, shoe store recommendations, or Swifty news, send them to

Posted: 24 Jan, 2017,
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