By: connie siu

Winter 2018 Issue

Competing in the digital age is a priority for businesses. There are innumerable opportunities to exploit technology and each business needs to assess where they can reap the biggest return for its investment. Companies need digital leaders to direct this important undertaking, and a successful digital leader has to wear many different hats. Following are five essential hats that they must wear for an organization to be successful.

1. A creative disrupter
The digital leader keeps a pulse on trends that are applicable to the business, both short- and long-term. Whether it's crypto-currencyaugmented realityartificial intelligence, or another trend, the leader must be aware of new technology that may impact the organization, and prepare accordingly. Beyond a leader's own knowledge, this can be accomplished in a variety of ways, including monitoring top digital tech sites such as TechCrunchTheNextWeb, and Wired, regularly meeting with fellow industry leaders, and participating in social media groups and chats

Digital leaders need to understand the levers the business must acquire in order to compete in the digital age, leveraging their industry expertise to create an innovative model that generates new revenue streams, enters new markets, and elevates the operating model to a high performance engine. Their digital vision aligns with the business’ big hairy audacious goals. They're able to communicate that vision in vivid language that everyone understands. And they get buy-in and support from senior management.

2. A customer champion
The digital leader has deep insight into the organization's customers. As customers demand more and loyalty becomes more finicky in the digital world, it is crucial to remain customer-centric when introducing change. A digital leader has the customer top-of-mind as product design and the digital support channels are modified, even the overhaul of internal business processes. They ensure that changes are cohesive and align well to deliver exceptional customer experience.

3. A risk taker
The digital leader leads the organization's initiatives in uncharted waters. They are meticulous in identifying and assessing risks. They are thorough in determining how to avoid or mitigate risks. They consult with others to determine whether the business can accept any risks that can’t be eliminated. The digital era has created new categories of risk that must be assessed before major steps are taken by a business.

The digital leader will opt to use pilots to test certain ideas. They digital leader is impartial and objective with the assessment before embarking on a full-scale change.

4. A change agent
The digital leader introduces changes in multiple facets of the business that have ripple effects throughout the organization. They launch new products and services, implement new standards of service, create new roles, shuffle responsibilities, eliminate archaic and manual tasks, and bust silos. Change can be painful for business units and there will be resistance, which can be distracting to the whole organization. As a change agent, the digital leader inspires everyone to take a leap out of their comfort zone, and instills a mindset that change is for the better.

5. A determined leader
The digital leader faces many challenges, including the integration of new technology with legacy systems and tools, capital constraints, and internal politics. The digital leader makes difficult but decisive choices, persevering through a transformation journey. They are transparent with the transformation plan, progress and hurdles that are encountered. They are not shy about seeking advice to move things in the right direction.

The digital leader has a critical and demanding role and businesses need to select the right person for the job.

Connie Siu is an expert in building best practices for a high performance business through operational excellence and effective results measurement. For more than 25 years, she has worked in the trenches with business leaders across a broad spectrum of industries. Connie has served on the board for Entre Nous Femmes Housing Society, the Institute of Certified Management Consultants of British Columbia, and the Transportation Committee for the Richmond Chamber of Commerce. To learn more about Connie’s work, visit: