Raising the CEOs of Tomorrow: The Challenges and Opportunities
We live in disruptive and fast paced times, how we work and how businesses operate have been revolutionised by digital technology. No business can – nor indeed should – avoid the implications, challenges and opportunities that come with embracing digital transformation.
Below Chris Underwood, Managing Director at Adastrum Consulting, explains the ins and outs of today’s digital challenges, offering some advice on how we can raise the next generation of leaders in a world of daily disruption.
In this world of constant disruption, where speed, agility and innovation are key, the pressures on leadership teams from across industry are multi-faceted and growing. Harnessing digital transformation to respond to disruption and – indeed – to be a disruptor, requires a fundamental shift in business model, impacting everything from customer experience and operations to marketing and culture.
Leaders in this age of digital, data and disruption need to be agile, nimble, adaptable and capable of driving a culture of innovation and continuous improvement. They need to understand how digital technology and data science can shape their organisations and those of their competitors, be vigilant to the ever increasing risk from cyber crime, while still retaining the foundations of traditional leadership in terms of displaying emotional intelligence, a sense of purpose and realising the art of the possible.
Key challenges and opportunities
While such change brings huge opportunities for growth, it also raises challenges. For example, for a recent Executive Search mandate, 78% of the CDOs we engaged with were in their first senior leadership role. As such, they will have limited experience of how to operate at executive level and speak ‘executive’ language or use it to obtain stakeholder buy-in.
However, there is much that both the ‘old’ and ‘new’ Chiefs can learn from each other. Dynamic, forward thinking businesses appreciate that Data and Digital now affect nearly every aspect of an organisation, at all levels, and can’t be viewed solely as a technology issue – they offer a way to transform business operations for the better. With this come different approaches and new, agile ways of working. Chief Data and Digital Officers can help to introduce these working methodologies and further educate their peers about the power of Digital and Data, helping shape business strategies in order to deliver exceptional and innovative customer centric experiences.
In turn, more established board members can help those in their first leadership roles to develop the unique skill set needed at such a senior level. This includes not just excellent business acumen and a focus on solving business problems but also softer skills such as Emotional Intelligence (EQ), speaking the ‘right’ executive language and building collaborative networks.
Identifying future leaders
Finding good digital leaders is not as simple as identifying the candidate with the most experience and expertise in digital technology or data. With such a rapidly evolving domain, modern leaders should have a unique skill set, which combines a wide range of business, technical and ‘softer’ skills.
An orgainsation’s digital maturity will also play a big role in the type of senior roles needed. Relatively digitally immature organisations for example, may benefit from a Chief Transformation Officer, or a Chief Digital Officer. Those who have already embraced digital transformation to the extent that it is an ingrained part of the business may be at the stage where they can drop the ‘digital’ from job titles, as for them, there will be no such thing as a non-digital role!
However, there are some core elements that need to be considered regardless of digital maturity.
Modern leaders need to be agents of change more than ever. They must be a visionary, a disrupter and a master storyteller who needs to be able to articulate the art of the possible to a wide variety of groups, hierarchies and stakeholders.