Leadership in the Digital Age – The Mindset & Skillset for Success

Leadership in the Digital Age – The Mindset & Skillset for Success

“When the external change is faster than the internal change the end is near.” – Jack Welch.

  • The outside world is changing at an exponential speed. Have you kept pace with this change ?
  • Is your journey of Leadership going through a transformation or has it been disrupted ?
  • Are you ready to ride the ‘Wave of Digital’ to become a Digital leader ?

I have made an attempt to share my thoughts, learning and experiences on Leadership in the Digital Age in this article.

Digital Disruption 

In the last decade we have seen how the Variety, Volume & Velocity of change and innovation have impacted businesses all over the world. The velocity of external change is increasing almost exponentially. And a lot of this change and velocity is related to what we, now call “Digital Disruption”. It is the use of new technologies [Cloud, Big data, Mobile, AI, IOT and other exponential technologies] to disrupt business models and industries. Digital is changing people’s lives: the way we think, live, work, shop, socialize, communicate and educate. 

A study from the John M. Olin School of Business at Washington University estimates that 40% of today’s Fortune 500 companies on the S&P 500 will no longer exist in 10 years. It is no surprise as 90% of Fortune 500 companies vanished since 1955, but the latest estimate is in 10 years, a fast decade away.

Digital technologies help to totally re-shape value chains and often lower entry barriers, causing long-established players to tumble. The digital technologies enable openings for focused, fast-moving competitors to create value chains in short span of time with the “plug and play” models. New market entrants often scale up rapidly at lower cost than legacy players can, and grow rapidly as more customers join the platform.

Organizations are having a major challenge to respond to this rapid change and disruption. Digital capabilities increasingly will determine which companies create or lose value. Organizations are forced to Rethink, Re-imagine, Reinvent & Reset their business models, organizational structures, business systems and processes, products and services. These shifts are influencing how people live, work, and relate to one another.

Leadership in the Digital Age

For decades we have had a notion of the smartest people making the best leaders as a major belief. The smartness was measured by the Intelligent Quotient [IQ] –considered as one of the key determinant for success and people with higher IQ’s were destined for key leadership positions. However, Daniel Goleman’s research on the concept of – “Emotional Intelligence / Emotional Quotient [EI / EQ]” changed the perspectives on leadership. The world started to embrace the combined measure of the traditional leadership qualities like intelligence, toughness, determination and vision in addition to a high degree of emotional intelligence, including qualities like self-awareness, inspiration, empathy, social and relationship management skills. The Leadership Quotient [LQ] as possessed and demonstrated by successful leaders became LQ = IQ + EQ. 

With the Digital Disruption vs Digital Transformation journey that most organizations are into requires a leadership with a completely new set of capabilities in addition to IQ and EQ to succeed in the digital age. Leaders then must develop or increase their “Digital Quotient [DQ]”. As organizations invest to improve the DQ of their strategies, capabilities and culture, the leaders in the Digital Age too would be measured by the DQ. The Leadership Quotient in the Digital Age has added another dimension LQ = IQ + EQ + DQ

In this digital era, leaders who are deeply empathetic, collaborative, agile, and accepting of risk, failure, and ambiguity are in high demand. The digital leader, will have to under­stand how to build and lead teams, keep people connected and engaged, and drive a culture of in­novation, learning, and continuous improvement.

These talented leaders will have to be Fit, Fast, Focused & Futuristic. When they combine their strong cognitive health with an insatiable curiosity for learning, they embrace change and new ways of working, while building trusted connections with their colleagues.

My definition of LEADERS:

IQ vs EQ vs DQ

Each of us have the power to be such a digital business superhero. Do we know how to tap into that power or that part of ourselves that allows us to Rethink, Re-imagine, Reinvent & Reset in ways that will help our businesses succeed in the digital economy ?

It is generally considered that IQ, which is largely genetic, will change little from childhood. As most people are in the top 10% or so of intelligence, IQ itself offers relatively little competitive advantage.

EQ on the other hand can be learned at any age. Growing your competency in EI is not easy or quick, as it takes perseverance in the process of critical self-evaluation, commitment to improvement and of course behavioral practice.

Today’s business leaders require more than a high IQ and EQ. Successful leaders in the Digital Age possess and practice the qualities of a Digital Quotient; rapidly adapting and transforming their enterprise by injecting digital capabilities into the organization’s DNA. It would certainly require Leaders and organizations to reassess their skills, capabilities to be competitive in the disruptive future. 

The Starting Point

While there is a lot said about Leadership in the Digital Age as a lot of reputable sources and surveys depicting trends, one of the best I found is the 2017 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends Report. It is important for business leaders to understand these trends and prepare themselves and their leaders for the digital age.

CEOs need to shift their mindset from technology driving value, to leaders driving value. There is increased need in developing the leaders of the future. Innovation and risk-taking now define high-impact leadership; risk-taking has become one of the most important drivers of a high-performing leadership culture.

  • Organizations can start developing a leadership model or a framework that empowers the digital leader by focusing on concepts of innovation, growth, inclusion, teamwork, and collaborating through change.
  • Identify likely digital leaders, and whether they will be better educators, pioneers, or transformers. Not all digital leaders will share the same leadership capabilities.
  • Get accountability from the top down. Identify who is responsible to the C-suite or board for developing leaders as business strategy, understand the urgency, value, and reward of developing digital leaders. A trusted partner or consultant can help with that.
  • Develop leaders faster to create a leadership pipeline, digital disruption and change isn’t seen as a leadership issue, but a business challenge.
  • Give digital natives the emerging younger leaders and opportunity to reverse mentor senior leaders helping them learn about technology and the changing digital culture.
  • Encourage risk-taking through experimentation, gamification and simulation giving them an ability and environment to innovate.
  • Need to create programs and plans to provide a platform for the identified leaders with the development tools and training to help them lead through the digital workplace. 


Leadership capabilities & Leadership development is certainly not keeping pace with the ever-changing complexities of the digital age. Organizations today have to invest in creating leaders who are more agile, younger, and “Digital-Ready”.

It is not difficult for you and me to be Digital Leaders in the Digital Age. We certainly need to discover and tap into that part of ourselves to Rethink, Re-imagine, Reinvent & Reset ourselves to be Fit, Fast, Focused & Futuristic to deliver consistent Value, Variety, Volumes & Velocity for our Businesses in the Digital Economy. 

As a Talented Leader would you like to discover your LQ, EQ & DQ to get an assessment of how Fit, Fast, Focused & Futuristic are you as a Leader and validate your Mindset & Skillset to succeed in the Digital Economy. Please contact the author for this assessment.


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