Cracking Digital Leadership by LMAO!
"Don't even try to manage Millennials!"
An intriguing statement I read in one of the "Millennial" studies and is echoed is similar manner in others.
The fact is: Our personal & professional lives have simply changed, and this is not only for Millennials! Our lives are more digital, more global, more diverse and more virtual. At same time, our own expectations, our family's expectations and our business expectations and needs from us are also changing and evolving faster than ever before.
In all of this, we are playing leadership roles either at home or work and now more than ever leadership is crucial to drive the outcomes with an ever changing and fast paced digital world. Leadership in the digital age is not anymore confined to the physical world we know. It expands across the vast virtual world we simply can't confine and therefore "old" ways of management or leadership cannot apply anymore.
In short, the digital world need a new breed of "digital" leaders who can be more agile, more connected, and more cognitive.
So what is leadership in the digital age? I am not going to dwell on the characteristics or qualifications of leaders as there are enough sources out there. Most come down to what Peter Drucker, quite some time ago, neatly confined as "characteristics" of leadership consisting of credibility, integrity, trust, ethics, and character and “qualifications” of leadership consisting of trustworthy, authentic, and sets an example.
Instead, I would like to share with you what I have identified as the 4 simple steps that could help you "crack" your digital world and make you a better leader, with your team, your superiors and most importantly with your kids; and what a better way to do it with LMAO! In this context, LMAO is: Listen, Morph, Augment, & Own.
You need to become a "Super" listener to your environment, your team and your family.
In the digital world, there is unimaginable mix of structured and filtered as well as raw and fragmented data and information which your family, your team, and you are working with. In addition, as per my previous blog, your environment will provide you the power of "Futuring" and allow you to be prepared for the future.
As a digital leader, you need to have and be able to show your ability and self-discipline to be actively listening, not to the data, but to the signals coming from them. These signals will give you the chance to understand the barriers and problems they see getting in the way of doing their task effectively. In addition, it will make the others feel free to fully express themselves, bringing unprecedented levels of energy, passion and creativity to work.
So how can you do that?
1- Be the Coach not the Commander: Ask questions (5 Why's always worked well for me) to allow them to reach to the concrete issue at hand. PLEASE refrain to jump and give help or assumption of the problem at hand! (I make the mistake sometimes as well)
2- Be a Mentor and a Mentee at same time: In your role as a leader, you will be expected to provide direction however, provide it in a mentorship way i.e. Provide how you have dealt with similar problem and allow them to make their impact. In addition, implement Reverse Mentoring allowing you to get different views as well as it enhances your listening potential.
3- Be Present: As a digital leader, most of your interactions will be done in a virtual medium and therefore it is crucial that you are 100% present in mind and focus to your team, task at hand and moment to ensure you can identify precise signals that are more difficult to capture in virtual environments compared to physical ones.
You can't be one type of leader in the digital age. You will need to morph to what the situation, team or medium requires you to be.
Being Agile requires organisational flexibility and strategic responsiveness. This can't be done without both flexibility and responsiveness of leaders themselves. Therefore, depending on the situation, the digital leader need to learn to operate at different levels: Provide high level strategies to support organisation's goals but also able to operate on a transactional level and make things happen.
So how you can do that?
1- Be a Collaborator: Collaborate yourself as well as champion collaboration across different teams. In the digital world, problems and challenges will need multiple skills and experiences to be resolved and these currently and in the future will not reside in one team.
2- Be a Co-Creator: If you are the best suited to the task at hand, just get your hands dirty. This will show your team, your family and confirm to your self you are a role model and state your "commitment".
3- Be a Follower: In some situations, you need to take the back seat and be a "follower" and let others lead you. This shows your authentic self, your humility and credibility that you know yourself and your limits.
You need to let go and use the vast digital world to augment your power, energy and drive and get it to be contagious across everyone you deal with.
In today's changing environment, I can assure you that you done have all the answers and as a digital leader, the sooner you acknowledge the limits of your expertise and knowledge the quicker you will be closer to success. However, the great leverage of the digital world, that you can use the power of the network, at huge scale, to provide both autonomy, collaboration and network to take your results to resolution.
So how you can do that?
1- Get Subscribers: Invest time in building a relationship with each person so you can understand what makes them tick and establish a personal dimension to a relationship. You want to get them in their own will subscribe to your vision, mission and journey rather than expect them to do it because of your seniority or position. This doesn't work anymore, neither at home nor at work!
2- Get the Pull rather than the Push: Setting targets by leaders and sharing with team used to work, but even that wasn't as effective as it once was assumed. Rather, I recommend that you to get the pull from the employees by inspiring them with the vision and mission. Then, let them be part of defining the targets and more importantly let them be open in what motivates them and what / how they perceive recognition (You will be surprised to see that remuneration is not everything.)
3- Crowd-source your personal brand: You are not anymore a one person leader but a vital part of a living entity like everyone else. Therefore, your energy, senses and emotion can only be transmitted to others, not simply your words, and you will simply need to trust that they will react in the right expected manner to achieve the right results. Their successes and not your own will create your personal brand.
You need to own your journey, true, but more important as a "digital" leader is facilitate the right digital & physical environments to allow others to be able to own, be empowered and be enabled to shape their journey as they see fit.
You have to set up the right structure, practices, tools and power distribution in the Organisation to allow decisions to be made by those closest to the action in fully autonomy and accountability to drive success. You simply need to be there to sense and respond to any unwanted barriers to full ownership and collaboration.
So how you can do that?
1- Make Leaders Early on: Identify your leaders very early in your and their journey and give them an "outsized" responsibility to test and develop their leadership skills. This is not only boost for those chosen but also for other to see that leadership is definitely "different" in this new digital world!
2- Celebrate Failures: Failure is still such a taboo and is not only stopping people to come up with ideas but also driving any ideas into reality, in the fear of failure. Why not celebrate failures openly (whatever size they are) to show that you are serious about ownership of the full lifecycle of an idea, including any failures. To ease your worries, in the digital world, celebrating a failure is easier than in a physical one; Trust me!
3- Let them choose their Tattoo: In the digital world, one size doesn't fit all and therefore you need to allow your team to organise and put their stamp on their joint team journey and their success or failures. You should nurture and support them and they will feel the sense of gratitude, loyalty and responsibility to perform to the best level possible.
One key item for all of the above is Digital Technology! Leverage technology to your advantage and "listen" when it doesn't to avoid it working against you. Virtual Collaboration tools, Communication Tools (e.g. Text & Chat), Social Platforms, and Agile Boards to name a few must be harnessed to power the digital world of the digital leader, their teams and/or their family. Make sure everyone knows the huge potential of the tools and of course their pitfalls. Train them well and you will reap the benefits.
In the next 100 days, ⁃ Identify one improvement measure you can implement for each area. ⁃ Identify if you have the right technology tools to support your measures. ⁃ Implement those measures, take a step back and "listen"
Redo the first steps and so on and you will be the digital leader who will join me in "LMAO"