There are five dimensions that create the best organisational conditions for businesses to thrive through ongoing digital change:
- Connectivity: Consistent collaboration with internal and external stakeholder ecosystems.
- Agility: Rapid decision-making, execution, and response to environmental changes.
- Empowerment & alignment: A definitive mission statement with an aligned workforce that is equipped to make decisions.
- Discipline & focus: Unequivocal clarity on what ‘digital’ means to an organisation and how to achieve desired outcomes.
- Openness & transparency: Deliberate transparency about ethics, responsibilities, and practices. Employees are valued and creativity is encouraged.
In this article we explore how connectivity – consistent collaboration with internal and external stakeholder ecosystems – helps leaders thrive in the digital world.
Connectivity plays an important part in an organisation’s digital transformation. The importance of this dimension lies in the ability to communicate and collaborate between internal and external teams so that the job gets done. In todays’ digital world of ever increasing uncertainty, just keeping up and making the right decisions requires much more collaboration than before. It’s no longer enough for people to simply do great work at an individual level. Rising customer expectations and the accelerating pace of change make it critical for people and teams to work together to be able to respond quickly and seamlessly to new business requirements.
“No one of us is as smart as all of us.”
“Collaboration is a powerful weapon for one simple reason: because no one of us is as smart as all of us.” Eduardo Kuperman, Director of employee engagement at Teva Pharmaceuticals*
As organisations figure out their answer to the digital revolution, they need to bring people, functions, organisations and even competitors together. The better your business is connected the better and more ideas will flow across the organisation. But in order for an organisation to stay connected and collaborate successfully, it needs a new type of leader, the ‘360° leader’.
For leaders to create cultures that foster innovation they can no longer be the overly controlling ‘helicopter leader’ and must start coordinate work so that the goals and responsibilities are shared. Not only do managers have to do this but senior executives and CEOs as well. They are responsible for driving the change, building the teams, refocusing the employees and collaborating with shareholders, external partners, the market as well as regulatory bodies.
Meanwhile hierarchical thinking and cultural precedents can stifle connectivity. But in the digital age, leaders must nurture higher, wider and deeper connections.
Strong leaders have always built these networks, but they have tended to be internally focused. This is now the baseline expectation for leadership as well as connectivity.
Great digital leaders also cultivate cross-function and cross-level internal connections. They build and maintain 360° connectivity outside the organisation, balanced by internal focus and discipline.
In order to do this, these high performing, 360° leaders must display high levels of emotional intelligence.
Our recent research into Digital Leadership in Asia Pacific shows that emotionally intelligent leaders are comfortable with ambiguity, as both the internal and external business conditions rapidly mutate. They engage and persuade their people with their change vision and cultivate new ways of thinking and working to support the process. And they do this again and again by deploying strong situational and emotional awareness to anticipate and address business and interpersonal challenges, powered by agile thinking.
Emotional intelligence can be learned.
Don’t panic though if your leaders don’t have those traits. Emotional intelligence can be learned through developing behaviour enabling to work hard towards it and becoming more aware. The secret to achieving emotional intelligence is the simple desire to change and to continually try.
In fact, scientists are learning there is a neurological basis for the success of emotionally intelligent leadership – that empathetic leaders actually modify their own brain chemistry and that of their followers.
We found that there is a large performance gap between leaders with well developed emotional intelligence skills and those without. Today, emotional intelligence is needed to handle the constant changes and to create an effective leadership.
So, the ‘heroic leader’ needs to step down. Why? Because in the past, leaders who did and knew everything seemed to achieve their goals but they created steep hierarchy structures and bled empowerment from the employees. When a leader is brave enough to say they “I don’t know” and invite others to solve problems, they bring back empowerment at a phenomenal speed.
Important steps to increasing connectivity
What can organisations and leaders do to increase connectivity in the business?
Organisations benefit greatly from collaboration between employees, leaders, teams, countries and competitors. One of the most important enabler of collaboration is an emotionally intelligent leader who is sensitive to the needs of their workforce and working culture. Three of the best practises to look at are:
- Organisations must disrupt legacy systems and hierarchies to become digitally sustainable, transforming into open, interconnected networks populated by a fluid workforce and led by a new profile of leader.
- Leaders need to shed their heroic, ‘can do it all on my own’ attitude and humbly admit when they do not know what to do as well as invite others to share in creative thinking and decision-making.
- Businesses have to support leaders to change. They need to invest in leadership development to help leaders build emotional intelligence, expose them to new experiences and amplify their connectivity to create the relationships critical to individual and organisational success.
Discover the traits and drivers of great digital leaders and how to develop this profile of leaders in your organisation. Read: Digital Leadership in Asia Pacific.
* Korn Ferry (2015). Engaging hearts & minds: Preparing for a changing world. [Report].