6 principles of digital leadership

The shift from control to conversation is happening everywhere, and this has huge implications for leaders. Especially when it comes to digital leaders who have to make their presence felt without being physically present.


Few understand this better than Paul Miller from Digital Workplace Group, who has spent well over a decade thinking about how the emerging digital workplace impacts organisations, in particular large, global and complex ones. physically present.


The digitisation of the leader

As new tools and channels of communication and engagement are created, leaders will have to consider how their personal style of leadership translates. Leaders will increasingly have to lead through the digital workplace and other remote forms of communication, and a leader might have to make his or her presence felt to all employees — including those he has never met in person.

Paul points to the fact that digital leaders can easily feel overwhelmed by the many possible channels and ways for them to communicate to their employees:

There are many ways of making your presence felt throughout the organisation, but a leader should choose a channel and way of communicating that works and feels comfortable to him or her. In the end this will benefit employees the most.”

Goals and visions, but no ready-made roadmap

Leadership in a digital workplace explicitly dissolves any notion of a strict hierarchy, and while opponents of digitisation might argue that dislocated communication inhibits the conversational nature of humans, digital leadership is first and foremost conversational.

Paul describes this as having several implications for any digital strategy:

“You have to establish a clear understanding of your objective, but be more flexible with how you get there. We know the starting point and the end destination, but we don’t know everything in between. There will be tradeoffs when we are striving for a new objective, and employees will have to navigate themselves. Leaders will have to formulate visions even clearer than before.”

6 principles of digital leadership

So the shift from control to conversation strongly affects any digital strategy, but it also heavily influences organisational structure and other aspects. Paul points to six principles that digital leaders would do well to keep in mind:

  1. Understand who you lead; not just the people working in your organisation, but the customer’s and supply chain.

  2. From mandate to conversation; persuasive powers are increasingly required

  3. Fewer managers and more leaders — software is providing information into peoples hand through mobiles, and this means that there is less need for managers. If you walk into a Burberry store, you experience the Burberry brand, and this has less to do with management and more to do with brand leadership.

  4. A leader must be digitally present even though he or she also has physical interaction with employees.

  5. Authenticity or being genuine. Having the communication department write all your material doesn’t fly any more. Employees demands a true sense of the CEO.

  6. Despite the conversational focus, leaders still have to lead. Whether or not the hierarchy has become more networked, leadership is still required.