Ten years ago, businesses were racing to understand and capitalize on concepts such as data mining, search technology, and virtual collaboration.
Today, digital transformation—which describes how digital technology is fundamentally changing the ways businesses operate and deliver value to customers—rules the roost and is disrupting companies everywhere, from their operating models to their infrastructures.
But that’s only part of the equation. “Digital transformation is actually a human transformation,” said Brian Solis, principal analyst at consulting and research company Altimeter. “We’ve learned that people have mistakenly overemphasized the role of technology in change. What this comes down to is leadership.”
With that in mind, we spoke with nine executives and thought leaders about what makes good leaders great, the habits that inform success, and specific skills they must hone to realize this transformation.
1. Be Empathetic
Truly great digital transformation leaders understand how human dynamics fear, politics, ego, sabotage, and safety play into people’s feelings about change. They don’t assume their teams see the world their way. Rather, they see how others might perceive things, then “bridges between how they see it and what you’re trying to do,” Solis said.
“It’s not about getting people to follow you. It’s empowering people to lead their own initiatives and collaborate with you and others,” he told CMO.com. “It’s about unification of a bigger movement of getting people to bring about change because they want to not because they have to.”
Amid all that change, when products and processes are shifting, leaders are tasked with ensuring that they weave humanity into every touch point, said Leesa Wytock, senior director of experience at brand strategy and design firm Siegel+Gale. That’s difficult to do without empathy.