Marshall Goldsmith blog - e-Leader

The Impact of Digitization and Technology on Leadership

24 Feb 2020

Organizations are rapidly changing due to the adoption of digital technologies. This evolution has wide-ranging ramifications for employees and their leaders. A growing number of jobs require extensive use of technology and the ability to keep up with fast-paced developments. Executives’ roles are changing in the wake of increased transparency and accountability across all levels of the organization. 

A specific term has been coined for a new profile of leaders who are at the forefront of digitization and technological advancement in their organizations: the e-leader. As digital enablers, they play a crucial role in driving positive results from the investment in new technologies. To accomplish that and effectively lead employees through these massive changes, executives need to adopt a new leadership style. 

In this article, we explore how exactly executives will lead change, which skills they require to thrive in the new environment, and how coaches can support this transformation. Having a trusted coach who guides leaders in these transformative times will certainly be a key advantage for organizations. 


How digitization and technology change the way executives need to lead

We observe three main developments that impact leadership in the modern organization. 

1. Leading virtual teams 

Any restrictions that required employees to be in one location are vanishing thanks to modern technologies. As a result, executives manage increasingly diverse teams with different cultural backgrounds in various locations and time zones. And with the rise of the gig economy, they not only have to supervise internal employees but also independent workers. Solid communication and cross-cultural skills are the keys to leading virtual teams to success. 

2. Facing new power structures within the organization

Increased connectivity and free-flowing information are quickly breaking down traditional hierarchies and boundaries. Many organizations are adopting a project-based approach to work that calls for shared leadership in teams. Members share the decision power instead of relying on one sole leader. The result is a higher sense of responsibility for the tasks and outcomes at hand, reducing the compulsion for controlling employee’s actions as previously exerted by leaders.

3. Facilitating employee development  

Executives are responsible for helping their workforce cope with the changes in the digital transformation. They will need to adapt their approach to the employee’s skill level: On the one hand, the war for talents demands leaders to retain highly-skilled, thought-after workers. Exhibiting coaching behaviors that promote the individual’s development and provide essential resources becomes increasingly important. On the other hand, executives have to upskill and motivate lower-level employees to deal with challenges of greater job demands and steep learning curves. Workers require assistance to embrace the upcoming changes that may be seen as a threat. 


Which skills executives need right now 

While pushing the digital agenda forward, leaders need to create a positive, connected, and highly collaborative work environment that doesn’t leave anybody behind. The new organizational culture should foster a strong sense of unity and belonging among employees. 

Traditional social skills, such as the ability to actively listen and understand others’ emotions and points of view, are now more important than ever. In an environment that’s rapidly changing, providing and receiving clear feedback is essential to improve continuously. In addition, a concept like FeedForward can be useful to gather actionable ideas for the future. 

E-leaders have to integrate these skills with the capability to apply a variety of virtual communication methods. They increasingly require IT-skills to understand and manage the use of various technologies effectively. 

Only leaders who adopt a life-long learning approach will be able to develop and hone the necessary digital and social skills. A coach can assist in this vital transformation. 


How coaches can facilitate the transformation

Digitization, in general, entails increased sharing of information. Leaders need to adapt to this new transparency, also with regard to their own development and challenges. Openly inviting direct FeedForward, rather than feedback, from stakeholders on their behaviors is now the key to success. 

However, this FeedForward process is not ingrained in most leaders, yet. That’s where coaches can greatly facilitate the executive’s development. By establishing stakeholder’s FeedForward as a fundamental element of the coaching journey, they can systematically drive lasting behavior change in leaders. 

This concept is a major building block of Marshall Goldsmith’s Shareholder Centered Coaching process. Click here to learn more about this highly effective, proven approach to coaching. As we are also embracing new technologies, you can now join our online workshop to get certified from the comfort of your own home or office. Find out when the next workshop starts here.

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