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4 changes in leadership in the digital era

Although digital technology plays a major role in business development, many business leaders haven’t really paid attention to this issue. Hong Bui, Professor in Business Education at Birmingham City University (BCU), discusses how business leaders can develop strategies based on her readings.

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4 changes in leadership in the digital era

Although digital technology plays a major role in business development, many business leaders haven’t really paid attention to this issue. Hong Bui, Professor in Business Education at Birmingham City University (BCU), discusses how business leaders can develop strategies based on her readings.

It’s time for leaders to embrace digital transformation

A survey conducted in mid-2020 by the School of Management, Massachusetts University of Technology (MIT) and Cognizant Company for 4,296 global business leaders from over 20 different sectors showed that 88 percent said that the future success of businesses would depend on the digital savvy of its leaders.

However, only 12 percent of business leaders have the right mindset about the digital economy.

While many businesses have digital aspirations, very few leaders are committed to developing digital talents.

In the book Leading in the Digital World, Amit Mukherjee argued that since digital technologies are changing everything else, how could they not change leadership ideologies and styles?

1). Make purpose a principle

Simon Sinek, in his book Infinite Game, outlines three important responsibilities of a business. They are:

  • Advance a purpose: To give everyone a sense of belonging to where they work, and that their life and work have value beyond their physical work
  • Protect people: To operate the organization in a way that protects those who work for itself, as well as those who use its services/products and the environment in which we live and work
  • Generate resources: money and other resources are seen as fuel for an organization to maintain existence so as to promote the first two priorities. It means profits are placed after a purpose and people; they are not a prerequisite.

2). Be data-driven

Leaders in the 21st century must be data-driven, including in the expansion of their networks. The leadership networks are human connections where true power lies.

It is a privilege from a few influential positions. Network visualisation invites more precise analytics around diversity, opportunity and performance.

Digital transformation makes leadership networks more transparent, while creating data- enriched opportunities to maximize human resources.

3). Increase creativity rather than productivity 

In the digital age, the capital resource is no longer a prerequisite. The capital in this era is     cultural and creative resources.

A successful business is one with the ability to raise creativity, not to increase productivity, because creativity can increase productivity with fewer resources.

To achieve it, leaders need empathy; immediately stop looking for consensus/agreement, often challenging your beliefs; should be the last speaker to let employees speak first, to avoid imposing thoughts on employees.

4). Appreciate diversity and difference

Sex, ethnicity, religion, and culture distinctions in the last century could gradually be erased in the digital age because such differences can be special and can be seen as the source of creativity.

For example, the poor cowboy in a small province in Vietnam, So Y Tiet, singing numbers in English on TikTok has become a global phenomenon, promoted by world stars and even the Manchester United football club.

His global reputation is made possible in the digital social media, otherwise, he would still be a poor orphan, not such an influencer on social media.

Similar to businesses and organizations, creativity may not only come from a certain origin, gender or background.

Why it’s time to embrace social media marketing

Social media for small businesses is vital, and organisations really need to harness its power.

Many businesses seem to delay learning about this important area and are often sceptical of using it, but I feel this is misplaced.

According to studies, more than 90 percent of people conduct an online search on a specific product they want before purchasing.

If businesses are not using social media to promote their business, they are likely to miss out on amazing opportunities to reach new customers/clients.

Many small businesses may argue that they do not have the time or funds. However, there are so many resources out there for businesses to utilise.

For example, they could take advantage of the Higher Level Skills Match (HLSM) programme, which can provide talented students and graduates to develop their social media presence, something agency Nonsensical, to their delight, recently discovered.

Businesses could also embark upon a knowledge transfer partnership, connecting you with experienced academics to accelerate digital transformation.

The importance of digital transformation in business can no longer be ignored. It’s time to take stock and implement changes that can really make a difference to your organisation.

Please note: small changes can make significant impacts if you are creative.

Hong Bui is a Professor in Business Education at BCU. Find out more about Hong’s research by visiting her profile.

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