Becoming a Digital Leader: 5 Essential Traits To Transform Your Business

Today, the rapidly transforming digital world means that for businesses, the only constant for them is change. That’s why becoming a digital leader can help.

Companies that can’t or refuse to keep-up with the rapid pace of digital innovation often find themselves floundering. 

In fact, according to Forbes, over half (52%) of Fortune 500 companies now cease to exist or have filed for bankruptcy because of their inability to adapt to what is known as the ‘digital disruption’ era. 

In such times of change, the ability to adapt and adopt new digital initiatives is essential to an organisation’s survival. If you want to drive the transformation of your brand. And you want to improve the customer experience. Then becoming a digital leader is more important than ever. 

However, it isn’t enough to sit back and follow in the footsteps of your competitors. To really stand out from the crowd and be recognised as a market leader, you need to be a forward-thinker. So prepare to change your company’s processes. And adopt a data-driven and customer-centric approach with everything you do. 

In this article, we’re going to look deeper into digital leadership. In addition we’ll explore what it means to be a digital leader for a brand. We’re also going to be taking a look at 5 essential traits for digital leaders. As well as how you can start to transform your brand today.

What is Digital Leadership?

What is digital leadership

For most marketers, when we think about digital, we think about emails, social media, SEO, content marketing and other channels.

It’s obvious that we start here because these are the platforms that engage our audiences. And ultimately, these drive the success of our brands online.

But if we look at digital from a proactive aspect; in terms of innovation and cutting-edge technologies. Then it presents a plethora of creative opportunities to improve the human experience. 

For brands, this means looking at the emerging technical age. And transforming our internal processes to be fit for the era of increased internet-usage and habits. 

The definition of leadership

However let’s look at the definition of ‘leadership’ in the Oxford dictionary. It can be described as; ‘the state or position of being a leader of a group or organisation.’

And this isn’t too dissimilar from how we would describe thought leaders. It means to be recognisable, admired, and trusted: an expert. It’s an indispensable factor in any business development. 

When we pair these two words together: ‘digital’ and ‘leadership,’ we create the notion of an individual or group who strive to better connect to their increasingly digitised audience. As well as also striving to be recognised as a market leader.

Image: Digital + Leadership = Market Leader

Simply put, digital leadership is all about keeping up-to-date with your audience and their digital usage. And then – guided by inbound data – adapting your digital marketing channels accordingly. So that you can continue to connect and engage with them. 

An effective digital leader will value communication, creativity and innovation. And they’ll possess a willingness to explore ways that new digital information can be used. Not only to aid business projects, but to remain relevant their audience. 

In the words of Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos:

‘If your customer base is aging with you, then eventually you are going to become obsolete or irrelevant. You need to be constantly figuring out who you are to your new customers, and what you are doing to stay forever young.’

Why Should I Strive For Digital Leadership?

Aside from maintaining your company’s relevance amongst its audience, digital leadership presents a whole range of benefits. 

In fact, in a recent survey by technology firm PTC, company executives stated that the top benefits of taking your company through a digital transformation include; 

  •  Improved operational efficiency (40%)
  •  Faster time to market (36%) 
  •  The ability to meet customer expectations (35%)

Images: Stay ahead of the curve

As you can see, there’s benefits to transforming your company into a digital-first business. For example, not only you can not only streamline your internal functions. But in additon, you can place yourself ‘ahead of the curve’. As a result you can market yourself to your target audience in the right places at the right time. 

Everything you do will be guided by the demands of the consumer. Thus, ensuring every business decision you make will be a success. 

5 Key Characteristics Needed To Be A Successful Digital Leader

Effective digital leaders don’t just have their eyes on the latest digital knowledge and apply it to their brands. But they also demonstrate great interpersonal skills that will help others to share their vision. 

So, if you’re an aspiring digital leader, take a look at these five key characteristics. These will differentiate you from your competitors and establish you as an agent of change. 

1. Digital Leaders Should Be Collaborative

What do strong, healthy, and prosperous companies have in common? 

Everyone works together as a team, focusing their efforts on achieving the overall business goals. 

The key to this: each individual understands the significance of their own contribution in achieving these results. 

Digital leadership is all about changing the processes of an entire business, not just one department. And it’s this collaboration across departments which is intrinsic to the success of your entire organisation. 

Image: Team work makes the dream work

For example, as a digital leader, it’s no use trying to ask marketing teams to roll out mass digital marketing campaigns if the IT department has not built the technology needed to improve the user interface and collect data. 

More importantly, there’s no point building those interfaces if the finance team hasn’t approved the spending required to do so. And, if you haven’t involved HR in recruiting the right people to do the job, you could be in trouble. As you’ll be stuck right from the word ‘go’. 

You’ll be surprised at how interlaced departments are. Especially how every team has an impact in the overall success of your goals as a digital leader. Every single one of them will be able to add some extra valuable insights. Overall, this will help to drive a better consumer experience and increase ROI for the long-term.

To be a digital leader, collaboration is key

Collaboration is such an important trait for digital leadership. So much so that many of the world’s largest firms embed it within their culture.

In an interview with Tech Insider, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said that within the company;

‘Anyone should be able to tell me anything, that’s the culture we strive for.’

When organisations embark on large-scale projects without adequate collaboration between teams, it can lead to confusion. And ultimately, a loss of time and resources. Which can result in a project that isn’t fit-for-purpose or of the highest possible standard. 

As a digital leader, it’s your responsibility to ensure collaboration takes place across departments. Whether this means holding weekly catch ups or asking teams to regularly share their work with the wider team. 

If you don’t adopt this as part of your role, then you could find yourself allowing room for confusion. Not to mention misintepretation, which could be detrimental to your overall goals for the company.

What’s that old saying? Teamwork makes the dream work.

2. Digital Leaders Should Be Visionary & Inspiring

Image: Create quote image incorporating the below: ‘The cowards never started and the weak died along the way. That leaves us, ladies and gentlemen. Us.’ – Phil Knight, Nike CEO

What did you think of Phil Knight’s line? Powerful, right?

To become a great leader in any industry, you need to have a vision and purpose. In addition, it should be vivid and compelling, so that it motivates your team to want to achieve it.  

Being a visionary is such an important trait for leadership. In fact, in a survey of over 300,000 leaders, it was recently picked out as one of the top 10 traits for success. 

In order to become a visionary, you need to bring a fresh mindset to the table. 

This means taking a step back from your organisation and looking at its processes objectively. It means not being afraid to disrupt these processes. And to create a truly innovative culture. One which brings in new strategies to help propel your business into the digital landscape. 

From your company’s content marketing to its social media and email campaigns, you need to create a holistic strategy. One which looks at your company’s current resources. Then challenges them to evolve with the ever-growing digital age. But one which also remains flexible to any future developments. 

As a leader, it’s your responsibility to share your vision with the wider team. And, to inspire them to get behind your ideas. 

It’s this inspirational trait which is key to your success. Recently, Harvard Business Review collected data on half a million individuals. They found that: 

‘the ability to inspire creates the highest levels of employee engagement and commitment. It is what most powerfully separates the most effective leaders.’ 

However you choose to inspire others is down to you. As the leader of your business, only you will know what inspires your colleagues. But, once you have conveyed the bigger picture to your team, they’ll begin to understand your vision. This way they know where their efforts are headed. And they’ll feel highly motivated to work towards those goals. 

3. Digital Leaders Should Be Experimental

Image: Be experimental

Being a leader is all about being innovative and cutting-edge in everything they do.. 

But you can only achieve this if you adopt an experimental mindset. And this means not being afraid to try new things, even if they turn out to be mistakes. 

Making mistakes is an unavoidable part of being experimental. But it can also be hugely rewarding if you get it right. 

As a leader, it’s your responsibility to promote this mindset amongst your team.

You need to give your employees the confidence to unleash their creativity. This means helping them to understand that failure is part of the process. And although failure is a natural part of innovation, it’s also what often leads to some of the best creative decisions. 

An example of a company which places this notion of experimentation at the heart of their success is Google. In fact, Google has restructured their internal processes to encourage creativity amongst their employees. 

The company has openly spoken about how they train their employees in creativity. And how they use managers for fostering creativity, rather than keeping track of their team’s task lists. 

This notion – they believe – of nurturing managers into natural leaders within their company is what fosters an innovative workplace environment. 

By incorporating experimentation as part of your company’s core values, you won’t only be cultivating a more creative environment for your employees, but you may just end up with some great new business ideas and processes! 

Nobody fully understands how technology will evolve. If you want to keep up with the digital trends and work out how they can be applied to your business, then experimentation is essential. 

4. Digital Leaders Should Be Customer-Centric

The technological revolution we’ve witnessed over the past few years has changed the way consumers interact with brands. 

From smartphones and tables to dynamic content on website banners. Marketers are facing constant shifts in the way the technology is changing people’s attitudes and interactivity with brands. 

For brands to maintain their relationships with existing customers and discover new leads, they need to embrace the technological advances. And they need to take a customer-centric approach to understand consumer habits. As well as be able to make decisions based on those habits.

Image: Build relationships with customers

In other words, if you want to be a successful digital leader, you need to recognise the effect of digital technologies. Because they are transforming the entire business process in order to better serve the customer. 

You’ll need to devise an entirely new customer ecosystem, making processes – particularly around products and services – for their benefit. 

As a digital leader, this means using your inbound marketing channels to clarify what the customer wants from you. Thus, allowing you to make better informed business decisions. 

A good digital leader communicates with their audience

In this scenario, your social media channels can act as great channels to speak directly to your audience. You can use interactive polls and posts. As these will encourage them to leave feedback for you.

Alternatively, your email lists open another opportunity to reach those not following you on social media. Here, you can include links to interactive surveys which request customer feedback. All of which will better inform your products or services in the future. 

And, you can even use your content marketing to guide decisions on what your customers want. 

For example, if you’re a small hardware store. You might have written a blog post about the ‘Top 10 Kitchen Tech Gadgets This Year’. And, you might notice it has a high click-through rate and time spent on page. As such, you can assume that your customers are genuinely interested in purchasing new kitchen gadgets. 

Such an approach is also a great way of increasing your customer lifetime value. Not only will you be crafting a business directly around exactly what your customers want. But you’ll also be making them feel valued. As though their opinion and feedback genuinely makes a difference. 

5. Digital Leaders Should Embrace Innovation

Image: Always embrace new tools and innovations

Now, this may seem like an obvious point. But if you really want to be a forward-thinking company, you need to be hot on the pulse of the newest technologies and digital marketing channels.

Effective digital leaders are first movers in embracing digital tools. This doesn’t just mean adopting every new technology which appears on the market. But rather, having a great eye for knowing which approaches may be most successful for your brand. 

For example, take TikTok. Back in 2019 social media experts predicted a surge in TikTok users. However, many brands chose to avoid focusing their energies on the platform. 

Why?

Because they understood that just because a platform is popular amongst their users, doesn’t mean it has the best return on investment. 

Yes, TikTok is a natural fit for brands looking to reach a broad audience, quickly. 

But unless your content is cultivating enough to drive people off the app and onto your website, it wasn’t seen as an effective platform for those looking to drive revenue. Especially because at the time their main user base consisted of teenagers. Hardly the demographic responsible for driving the success of most businesses. 

A digital leader takes an omnipresent approach

I’m not saying that your brand should avoid TikTok. After all, I am an advocate for creating omnipresent marketing. However, I do believe that you need to be careful in the types of technologies you focus your efforts on. Especially if you are a small company with limited resources. 

Therefore, if you want to be a digital leader that embraces innovation successfully, then you need to be well-versed. Keep an eye on the latest technology blogs and magazines. And follow tech-gurus on social media and subscribe to their newsletters. 

Make sure you know everything there is to know about technology and its potential for your business.

The more informed you are, the earlier you’ll be able to spot a great opportunity for your brand. Then, you’ll be able to incorporate that into part of your overall strategy. Even before your competitors have learnt about it! 

Summary

Over the past decade, brands have faced what has been commonly termed as ‘disruptive innovation.’ 

With the emergence of new technologies and software, companies have needed to evolve with the times. And it has been necessary in order to survive. Rather than sitting back and waiting for consumers to find them, they’ve had to take advantage of inbound marketing opportunities. 

As technology continues to grow and evolve rapidly, for brands to excel, they need to become ‘digital leaders.’ 

Becoming a ‘leader’ is by no means an easy feat for anyone. Especially those looking to break through the already saturated online market. 

For those who strive for digital leadership, they need to look at their company objectively. And overhaul their business’ processes to better suit the customer and the way they are navigating online. 

It means adopting a growth mindset and fostering a culture of creativity and innovation across all their employees. As well as ensuring every business decision is made for the benefit of the consumer. 

Transforming Your Brand Into A Digital Leader With A Marketing Consultant

As we’ve discovered, becoming a digital leader isn’t an easy task. 

Not only does it mean keeping your eye on the ball of all the latest technology developments. And ensuring you’re always one step ahead of the rest. But it also involves a lot of work in reviewing and adapting your business processes.

In fact, if you want to transform your business, you need to allow for a complete overhaul and business adaptation. And this can be difficult to achieve when you’re working directly within that business’ environment. 

Instead, you may look to work with a marketing consultant, such as myself. Someone who can look at your company with a fresh perspective and make decisions objectively. 

Having worked within digital marketing for my entire career, I have a wealth of experience and knowledge within the industry. And my team and I know exactly what it takes for brands to succeed online today. 

Whether you’re looking for a consultancy-style approach, with an expert who can advise on the best practices to drive your brand forward. Or a team who can create and deliver an entire marketing strategy for you, we can tailor our services to suit your needs. 

To find out more about our services and how we may be able to help you, please get in contact. I’d be more than happy to have an obligation-free chat with you. As well as learn more about your online goals. 


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