Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail – Ralph Waldo Emerson.

The world of work is changing in this digital age of globalisation and technological advances. Traditional workplaces are being transformed by smart technologies such as artificial intelligence, analytics, robotics, internet of things , big data and a range of cloud-based services and supports.  Many leaders are challenged to keep pace with rapidly transforming workplace environments and the advent of remote working practices has added significant pressure on leadership capabilities.

Leaders need to radically adapt their leadership styles for more digitally driven workplaces. Such is the pace of change some leaders may suffer digital culture shock! Leading their organisations in a high octane environment challenges all leaders to constantly reassess their skills if they are to stay relevant in the digital workplace. Leadership assumes a broad working knowledge of most operational aspects of an organisation in a digital age which is defined by speed, collaboration and experimentation in the workplace. If a leader seeks to have employees with digital competencies and adaptive capacity then that same leader is obliged to keep pace with technological innovations by ensuring  an acceptable personal level of digital competencies.

Leaders are leaders because they have followers. An appointment to a leadership role may give the appointee the title of leader but he or she must earn the respect of followers to be a true leader. There is a difference between a boss and a leader in a workplace situation. A boss manages people but a leader inspires people who, in turn, are followers who trust their leader and respect his or her knowledge and competencies. Leaders must show they have knowledge and insights regarding  relevant subjects, including the use of technology in the workplace. .

Technological-powered transformation, cloud software and unified communications systems  are reshaping traditional workplaces and practices as they transition towards a digital workplace model. The availability of cloud services enables diffused, virtual workplaces and flexible working hours. Employees can access a digital workplace through any device , anytime, from anywhere. Working from home or on the go, facilitates flexible work patterns which can actually boost productivity. Innovative technology has re-shaped traditional workplaces and practices to provide for more creative and flexible working environments,

To be successful in leadership today, good leaders must stay current, creative and adaptive while being agents for change.The best leaders strive to have an understanding of the impact of artificial intelligence, deep learning, learning management systems, market analytics and more, so that they keep their organisations relevant in the marketplace. Many businesses and organisations are seeking to globalise their sales and services. E-commerce has expanded rapidly as business-to-consumer online shopping has recently boomed. Business leaders need to be fully conversant with the advances in the digital economy, so being capable  in the use of a range of smart technologies is now a core competency requirement of good leadership.

Many leaders have  progressively evolved into  digital leaders who lead forward-thinking, digitally-endowed organisations. Leaders’ strategic planning capabilities will constantly be impacted by advances in technological developments. Leaders should align their organisation’s culture and growth strategy with digital technology in order to exploit competitive advantage and drive efficiencies. Throughout their working careers progressive leaders commit to lifelong learning  as they drive digital innovation and knowledge creation. Their understanding of the potential of data and cloud  technologies, machine learning, robotics, artificial intelligence and suchlike will give them serious competitive advantage.

Leaders must continuously innovate, challenge assumptions and regularly invest in digital tools and technologies. Progressive leaders will therefore have the insight and knowhow to reform internal structures and reinvent the workplace by connecting systems, processes and people. They know also that wave after wave of disruptive technologies will be a constant feature in a world of continuous change. A leader’s ability to navigate this tsunami of change will largely define his or her success or failure.

Change won’t wait for anyone. Digital competencies are increasingly becoming the foundation upon which  job skills of the future are  based. As traditional skills become obsolete, leaders, their teams and employees, will need to actively and continually upskill and retrain in order to stay relevant. Companies and organisations are increasingly operating across geographical boundaries and collaborate across digital networks.Global online collaboration will continue to increase as teams connect and work together from different locations across the world.

To address the trend towards global digital transformation, leaders will need to have their organisation’s policies and processes future-proofed by identifying digital solutions to provide for digitally enhanced protocols and services.  Driving improvements has always been a core responsibility of leaders. In this digital age, progressive leaders must lead with understanding and appreciate the transformational impact of  ongoing digital innovation.

The first two decades of the 21st century have witnessed an unprecedented level of technological disruption and innovation. In this age of digitalisation it is no surprise that digital technology is now embedded in all social and commercial activities-business, education, community services and others. Younger generations of  digital natives know about the importance of digital competencies for career advancement and for advancement in the workplace. For older generations a priority goal must be to keep pace with the transformational technologies that daily revolutionise the way we live and work. If a leader is to remain relevant he or she must understand and speak the language of technological innovation in order to drive structural change. The leader must be a key actor in the deployment of new technologies.

Technology and innovation is also driving change in leadership roles through changes in the principles and practices of leadership. Tech-savvy leaders exploit technology to re-shape organisations and their work practices. In the current digital world many progressive leaders function as e-leaders because they deploy new technologies and exploit digital tools to drive change, innovation and diversity. Technology empowers leaders so leaders today must have the key competencies to survive and thrive in a globalised economy where smart technology increasingly dominates personal and business activity.

Innovative  leaders know the value of technology in boosting organisational performance. With more people  working on the go or from home, the use of technology has increased mobility and enhanced productivity. Employees can work anywhere, anytime and leaders can track productivity and outcomes while also having real time feedback and data collection. Technology has certainly facilitated remotely located virtual teams to connect and collaborate from a distance. Leaders have actually seen enhanced organisational cohesion and greater alignment with organisational goals as technology allows teams and individuals work across units, sectors or organisations.

Technology augments leadership as leaders now use artificial intelligence and analytics to  automate some routine management elements of their leadership roles. By leveraging a variety of software and communication tools leaders can significantly enhance their influence throughout the entire organisation . Through prudent use of information and communication technologies leaders can exert their influence to change attitudes, behaviour and performance. Technology can empower leaders who take advantage of current and emerging technologies to advance organisational efficiencies and goals.

Virtual teams and virtual leaders in a virtual work environment have become a reality through the application of innovative technology.Technology can enhance human creativity when integrated into the culture of the organisation. It can enhance leadership, promote collaboration , drive efficiencies but only if the leader has the competencies and insights to exploit the potential of  technology to transform organisational capacity. Competent leaders provide the competitive edge to lead their organisations to new levels of agility, innovation, growth and digital advancement.

Change is inevitable in a relentlessly changing world. Keeping pace with technological disruption is not an an option but should always be an imperative. Leaders must have the competencies to ride the wave of change to future proof their organisations and their careers. Innovative technology is not optional-it is essential for survival.

It is not the strongest of the species that survives nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change – Charles Darwin.

(Feature photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash).


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