Developing Leadership in the Digital Age

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Developing Leadership in the Digital AgeIn a recent article (Harvard Business Review, Oct. 10th 2016), authors Jesuthasan and Holmstrom  point out the growing “democratization” of work. Many of the new digital technologies are being developed and used outside of many companies. This has led to an increase in outsourcing certain tasks to contract experts.

However, some large and disperse companies like IBM have initiated internal talent platform, the Open Talent Marketplace (OTM) that matches talent needs to talent supply at the skill, assignment and job level within and across the company. “OTM assignments are sourced and short-term talent matches made to accelerate the completion work across the organizations, un-bounded by geography or business line or industry segment. This OTM approach is furthered through external talent exchanges with clients and partners.” However, before posting such jobs, the authors propose that many managers are not familiar enough with what and how new digital technologies can help a company.

The authors further suggest that it is important for companies to recognize that developing a digital focus among leaders requires a multi-pronged approach from seeding the organization with those who are “born digital’ while also weaving digital learning content across the leadership development curriculum to help other leaders “go digital.” In addition, this type of mindset shift and behavior change must move beyond a core group of leaders and instead elevate the full leadership cadre around the prominence of digital and its relevance and meaning for how leaders lead.

When using the OTM method, it is suggested that the managers who might not have the digital expertise be teamed with the digital experts to help the managers learn about how the unfamiliar technologies can help the company. This also should apply to outsourced contractors and leverage the project cost to help train managers who should become familiar with the technology. Along the same line of thought, outsourced experts can be used to train managers on new technology and best practices. However, just undergoing online training is not enough. Mangers need to undergo hands on training.

Open-systems learning

Companies should consider training programs such as open enrollment at the John F. Welch Leadership Center at Crotonville where leaders from other organizations (e.g., market partners to GE) can take advantage of the unique GE learning experience.


Some companies are opting to contract experienced coaches to not only help leaders with the education of new technologies but also how to define technical digital solutions and manage both internal and external workers within the context of digital solutions and integration.

As technology and the approach of AI, leadership will require a deeper understanding of the technologies, their best practices and how to appraise the best uses of technology from a cost-benefit point of view. As Jesuthasan and Holmstrom  put it: “Upskilling leaders to navigate through this new world of work requires a reboot on how leaders gain and use their experiences.


Additional Reading

The Cost of Digital Micromanagement

7 Important Leadership Skills


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