5 Harsh Truths That Will Make You A Better Leader In The Digital Age
Ten years ago, the stereotypical image of a great leader was a strong, serious and somewhat intimidating type.
Today, we often hear that a great leader must show his/her vulnerable side, be authentic and have an unwavering commitment to the success of others.
What’s happened – have leaders become soft? Or simply more human? And why did this happen?
One doesn’t have to go far to see that the new leadership requirements are a direct result of a radically new world which emerged during the last decade:
- Expectations of customers have changed
- Motivations of employees have evolved, and
- Technology has enabled people to communicate in remarkable, new ways.
Unfortunately, I see many leaders still taking a “bury head in the sand” approach, either being unacceptably slow to respond to the changing world around them or entirely ignoring its demands.
Fortunately, there are some simple – if harsh – truths that will help you evaluate your ability to effectively lead companies in 2015 and beyond. The sooner you recognize these truths, the sooner you’ll be able to realize your full potential as a leader.
1. Your Personal Brand Sucks
Based on a survey conducted by leadership consultant Glenn Llopis, less than 15% of leaders have defined their personal brands and less than 5% are consistently personifying them.
(Interestingly, 70% of leaders believe they have defined their personal brands and 50% believe they are living them).
The biggest mistake that leaders make when it comes to personal branding, however, is this: they view it as an act of self-promotion, rather than a commitment to advancing their career by serving others.
Less than 15% of leaders have defined their personal brands and less than 5% are consistently personifying them.
This confusion is easy to understand, because personal branding is a relatively new area of focus for professionals. Its newness, however, must not undermine its position as a critical requirement for successful leadership in tomorrow’s world.
Leaders must keep front of mind that personal branding is a responsibility that extends well beyond self-promotion on social media. It’s a pathway to serving others, aiming to leave a legacy and working with a generous purpose, points out Llopis.
2. Your “Digital Strategy” Is Outdated
We’re flying head first into the digital age.
To understand what this means for business leaders, I recently interviewed Carlo Gagliardi, partner at PriceWaterhouseCoppers (PwC) and head of the firm’s “Strategy For The Digital Age” offering.
His primary message was simple: to succeed in the digital age, you don’t need a digital strategy. Rather, you need a business strategy for the digital age. It means embracing digital in a holistic way, rather than viewing it as a part of your marketing department.
The best leaders recognize that today digital is a core element of business DNA and, in doing so, unlock massive amounts of value in all parts of their organizations.
3. You Must Care To Survive
Social media and Web 2.0 have freed people from their dependency on mass media to provide them from information, entertainment and validation.
Today’s consumers pay a lot less attention to billboards, banner ads and print ads. Take a look around you during lunch hour and you’ll see where their focus is: their phones.
Every person is now a self-sufficient, independent curator of content.
A well-culled mix of bloggers, Twitter influencers, interesting Facebook friends, Instagram accounts and LinkedIn celebrities are all available to each one of us at the flick of a finger.
To succeed in the digital age, you don’t need a digital strategy. Rather, you need a business strategy for the digital age.
This is great news if you’re hungry for content (which we all are).
However, it’s a scary thought if you’re a business leader and your brand’s voice is relying on advertising to get noticed and, in doing so, is losing the battle for attention in people’s inboxes and social media feeds.
Do you think you’ll be able to get that attention back by pretending that you care about what they care about? Think again.
You actually must care. Anything less than excellent, bursting-at-the-seams-with-passion communication will fall flat on its face.
4. You Are Naked
Social media has leveled traditional communications channels between your business and the rest of the world.
If customers, business partners and employees feel like you’re mistreating them (and instead of attending to their complaints, you’re spending money on PR to cultivate a positive image), they’ll let you know – in the public domain – via social media and various Web 2.0 properties.
The only option you have at your disposal is true, authentic care. Listen to the problems, create solutions, invest in platforms which will deliver those solutions, hire the right people to run the platforms them and empower these people to make smart decisions.
In the long run, it’s also the most profitable, most scalable and most fulfilling path.
Do you think you’ll be able to get that attention back by pretending that you care about what they care about? Think again. You actually must care.
5. You Don’t Know How To Make Money
That’s the bad news.
The good news is that no-one else knows, either. The only people who do are select employees of the Federal Reserve Bank.
The rest of us can only create value (and turn a profit as a by-product).
The illusion of “making money” took hold late last century, and was epitomized by Wall Street bankers for whom “profit justifies the means” was the accepted (and often celebrated) business practice.
This is not just a simple exercise in semantics. It’s a question of purpose. Your personal purpose will determine whether your business succeeds or fails – long before you declare that you’re officially “in” business.
Your personal purpose will determine whether your business succeeds or fails – long before you declare that you’re officially “in” business.
It can be tempting to view business as purely a money-making activity, however doing so limits your perspective, narrows your options and locks you into a riddle which has no real answer.
Don’t get me wrong – this is not an argument against building personal wealth and/or not managing business finances. I truly appreciate all the material spoils which come with having a healthy business and I spend more time looking at my business financials than I spend putting on make-up in the mornings.
What I’ve discovered, however, is that letting go of preoccupation with making money and instead wrestling with a question like “how do I create more value for more people today?” substantially expands opportunities for growth, brings more fulfillment to me and my team (and, ironically, leads to larger profits).
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