Skip to main content

Leaders in the Digital Age will be Made, not Born

2021-06-03 | BY: SRI MANCHALA

Position your organization for success by becoming a ‘Methodical Innovator’

Today, every board member, CEO, business and IT leader is on the faultline of the COVID-19 earthquake, working feverishly to avoid future shock. We’re all thinking about how to survive the dual onslaught of necessary digitalization and the bottom-line impacts of the COVID-19 crisis, reconfiguring and reinventing our companies as we push toward better and brighter days.

We’re looking for answers and new ways to lead through unprecedented times. Some companies will not survive. Further analysis from Trasers’ Global Transformation Study (TGTS) predicts that nearly 30% of companies will no longer exist by the end of this decade—and those findings came before COVID-19 unleashed its effects on businesses and economies worldwide. The number could go as high as 50%.

Trasers is a research unit I founded when transforming my company, Trianz, starting in 2013. It is entirely dedicated to digital transformation research, and in developing TGTS, our researchers collected data from more than 5,000 companies in 20 industries worldwide.

Our analyses of nearly 1.5 million (and growing) data points revealed several macro-level trends shared within my book, Crossing the Digital Faultline: 10 Rules of Highly Successful Leaders in Digitalization. We learned how successful companies develop their vision and priorities, what technologies they adopt and at what pace, various execution models, success factors for organizational change, and ways to measure success.

What the 7% of companies that were successful have in common: “The Methodical Innovator”

The data showed that the most critical determinant of the successful transformation of a company, unit, business, or IT function is the digital IQ of its leaders and the methods they follow. Successful leaders confront, comprehend, think, act, and perform differently in the Digital Age.

These leaders – what I call “Methodical Innovators” – develop a clear understanding of digitalization’s impact of change; they visualize transformations, not in grandiose terms but in the form of value to stakeholders and measurable outcomes, and they invest heavily in their people.

They are also data-driven. Whether the task involves vision, priorities, strategies, evaluation of talent, monitoring of progress, or planning future iterations, they base their decisions on data - facts that they have collected through analytical processes.

Moreover, they surround themselves with a team of leaders, each of whom is better than they are in their respective fields. Finally, they are relentless executors who understand that while this change is iterative, they must be tenacious and exhibit patience through several iterations until results begin to show.

The process of becoming a Methodical Innovator

Growing up, we are taught about leadership through a variety of frames, figures of speech, images, and heroic stereotypes. We are encouraged to think of leadership characteristics and values in terms of bravery, sacrifice, perseverance, determination, and almost-magical skills.

However, we are seldom taught about leadership as a process, as a method, and as an acquired skill.

I’ve come to believe that Methodical Innovators follow what I’ve deemed the “Ten Rules of Leadership,” and develop their own process for leading their teams across the Digital Faultline. As a broad construct, this process consists of five major stages: Confront, Comprehend, Accept, Commit, and Continue, or C-C-A-C-C, in short. In each stage, these leaders ask themselves key questions—almost repeatedly—until everything becomes second nature.

Leaders who ask themselves these questions on a regular basis automatically begin the process of transforming themselves. As they experience the benefits of addressing these questions, the natural force of these behaviors encourages them to extend it to their leadership teams and, ultimately, their organizations.

This will, no doubt, be a big change for many leaders. But with time, using insights to make data-driven decisions—in every phase of iterative cycles—becomes a habit. And because Methodical Innovators are constantly monitoring, measuring results, and refining their approach, they’re constantly transforming ahead of the business, not as a result.

The path forward

A lot is happening in everyone’s personal and professional lives due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it has to be remembered that leaders rise above the circumstances—no matter what they may be.

The best way you, as a professional, can defeat the COVID-19 pandemic is to use this time to think, plan, and begin the process of personal change toward becoming a Methodical Innovator. The faster you and your leadership team make the personal transition and move forward with the CCACC process and the Ten Leadership Rules, the sooner you will hit your stride in facing and crossing past COVID-19.