Adaptability: The Key Leadership Trait in the Digital Transformation

There’s a reason that dinosaurs no longer roam the earth: they couldn’t adapt to their changing environment. And just like those dinosaurs, many leaders today risk becoming fossils in the digital ecosystem if they can’t adapt to the changes happening in our current digital transformation.


In fact, I’d say mere adaptability is no longer enough. Leaders don’t just have to change—they must change quickly, or best case proactively—if they want to stay at the head of the market. Given the vast number of changes happening daily due to technology’s advancement, today’s leaders are under a great amount of pressure to know more—and do more—than ever before. The following are some essential traits all leaders need to embrace if they wish to keep their company from becoming mere relics of the digital age.

Create a Clear Vision That Matters

We’ve talked before about the importance of vision in setting a clear focus and inspiration for a company’s employees. Your company’s vision is its bedrock. It’s the solid thing everyone can count on, no matter how much technology, products, or services shift and change. For instance, IBM’s values have nothing to do with what kinds of tech they are building. Instead, they focus on the kind of partner they want to be in the digital world.

They include:

1) Dedication to every client’s success.

2) Innovation that matters—for our company and for the world, and

3) Trust and personal responsibility in all relationships. Having a clear, meaningful vision gives you a solid gut check for every major tech decision you make. Does it fit our vision? Does it fit our values? What’s more, is it the best you can do for your customers? If not, drop it and move on.

Embrace Technology

Do you as a leader know how to use the Internet of Things (IoT), virtual reality, big data, or machine learning for your customers’ and company’s greater good? If not, you need to find out. Today’s leaders need to be up on every tech trend in their industry and the greater marketplace. After all, your customers don’t just develop standards based on what they experience buying your product. They develop expectations based on every single interaction they have in the digital landscape. Unfortunately, a recent Gartner survey showed more than 60 percent of business leaders don’t really know the possibilities associated with using next-gen technology. Even worse just 13 percent had actually identified their next major tech investment. Being in-the-know on tech is no longer a job to be handed off to your CIO or tech team. It’s a responsibility of every single leader in the company.

Think Now—And Later

Do you remember the old candy called Now and Later? It got its name because it lasted. And that’s exactly what you want your company to do in this age of frantic digital change. As one writer notes, IT teams need to “build for both the current use case, as well as the next.” Yet, most companies are focusing far more on the present with little future focus. In fact, research shows the average business spends more than 80 percent of their IT budget just on keeping current systems running. That leaves little to no room for innovation or proactive customer engagement! Today’s leaders need to turn the tables before their company goes pear-shaped.

An Obsession with Improvement—Especially Related to CX

It’s not enough to know about new technological capabilities. Today’s leaders need to be obsessed with finding the absolute best technology to keep their customers happy and engaged. They need to be constantly considering how to answer customer demands before they even ask. They need to be hungry for change—not afraid of it.

Use Tech—and Data

Lastly, effective leaders in today’s market need to use the technology and data already available to them to make smarter, more strategic decisions. They need to utilize big data and machine learning whenever possible. They need to adopt SaaS and business cloud solutions to make their processes leaner and more scalable. After all, if they aren’t using today’s data, it will be even more difficult to adapt to tomorrow’s.

No doubt, today’s leaders are under tremendous pressure when it comes to adapting—and thriving—in an age of chaotic and disruptive change. But at the root of it, the leadership traits of the most successful leaders today are the same as they’ve always been: committed to the customer, focused on continuous improvement, and capable of inspiring their teams even in the face of massive change. When you boil it down to those few goals, the change feels a bit less overwhelming—and maybe even just a little bit exciting—at least for the leader passionate about our new digital world.

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