How to Achieve Five Competencies of Effective Digital Leaders

by Staff Writer

To succeed in our rapidly-evolving digital world, leaders need to evolve, too. To do that, they need to lean on technologies that help them improve their processes, increase productivity, and create business value and competitive differentiation for their organizations.

It’s a tall order - but a critical one. When HR Consulting firm Randstad USA asked companies what best practices lead to successful digital transformation, ninety-five percent of organizations surveyed said that “a different, new type of leadership is required to effectively address changes in organizational structures and operating models due to digitalization.”

Graphic of competencies of digital leadership

Based on data from 4,000 leaders, the Workplace 2025 report identified five competencies of successful digital leaders:

1. Inspire Others

With complex organizational structures and collaborative, team-oriented environments in today’s workforce, authority doesn’t always equal influence. The ability to inspire others and personally affect their actions, decisions, opinions, or thinking leads to genuine commitment to objectives, developing careers, and ultimately driving productivity and performance.

Creating a shared vision is an important first step, and successful leaders will adopt tools that enable them to keep goals —and progress toward them — in sight. A work execution platform such as Smartsheet can help by making it easier for leaders to articulate and share the organization’s strategic vision via company-wide and team portals and dashboards. Portals and dashboards can also help them foster an atmosphere of transparency, so that team members can easily see their role in the context of the company’s long-term mission.

2. Leverage Technology

Of those surveyed, 94 percent of workers agree “technological innovations are influencing what is required for a leader to be successful.” We have seen this with our customers: Leaders who embrace the use of digital tools and innovations realize results that accelerate their progress towards critical business goals.

When leaders at one of the oldest and largest advertising agencies in the world, Ogilvy, needed a way to respond more quickly to changes in their rapidly evolving industry, they turned to Smartsheet.

“There’s a lot of disruption in the industry; the whole model has changed in advertising, and as a large institution, it can be hard for us to keep up,” says Mame McCutchin, program director at Ogilvy. “Our larger brands are like us: They also don’t turn on a dime, but they expect us to lead them with technology and changes in the way we work. And across the board, Smartsheet has been a solution many times over.”

3. Encourage Collaboration

Today’s workers expect environments that support and encourage collaboration. Seventy-six percent of the survey respondents agree that “leadership today and in the future must have the ability to keep people connected and engaged.”

Increasingly, giving teams a cloud-based collaborative work management tool is table stakes for businesses who want to remain competitive. There are multiple such tools available, and they range from simple task apps that allow a single view of work with limited sharing capabilities, to robust and easily shareable work execution platforms such as Smartsheet. By providing a platform that makes it easy to share work with anyone inside or outside of the organization, business leaders enable their teams to save time, reduce mistakes caused by silos, and increase transparency, all due to improved collaboration.

4. Drive Innovation

Driving innovation is an area of great opportunity for most leaders. Only 37 percent of those surveyed describe their employer as a “leader in digital innovation.” To drive innovation within their organization, leaders can start by instigating new processes via tools that reduce manual, repetitive tasks, freeing up their team for higher-value tasks and ideation. A work execution platform that allows users to easily set up automated workflows reduces productivity-killing emails and status update meetings. By bringing in technology that optimizes work processes, leaders can create time and space for innovation.

5. Manage Risk

Innovation requires bold thinking, plus the courage to take risks. Not every attempt will succeed, but that only makes it that much more important to try. If failure to innovate leads to stagnation, unwillingness to act can lead companies to die a slow death. Successful digital leaders need to embrace and carefully manage risk. The right technology can help.

Choosing a collaboration tool that provides real-time insights into project status, dependencies, and progress towards KPIs can enable leaders to quickly assess the potential impacts of risk, and plan accordingly. When a risky new initiative starts trending south, a platform such as Smartsheet will surface those trends in real-time, enabling a quick pivot or course correction.

Building these five competencies will benefit more than just a company’s current teams. The Randstad USA survey also found that 72 percent of potential new hires are influenced to join a new company based on its digital leadership, and 80 percent are attracted to a company based on its use of the latest digital tools. The case for Collaborative Work Management solutions is becoming an imperative for business; Smartsheet leads the pack with a powerful set of capabilities that any business leader can easily use.