“A leader is best when people hardly know that they exist, when their work is done and their goal achieved, they will say: we did it”.
This thought by Chinese philosopher Lao Tsu represents the essence of leadership in any age and, especially, right now, when people in organizations need a “close leadership” that helps them in their process of change and adopting new ways of working.
In recent times, there has been abundant literature about leadership and it is difficult to find new ideas or reflections that have not been dealt with in depth by reputed experts in the matter. But, I am going to try and specify the qualities that a leader must develop in this digital era.
As I discover new success stories of businesses that understand digital transformation, I have been able to identify seven norms followed by the executives that run them on different levels of the organizational structure.
We talk about habits, as these actions that are needed these days cannot consist of sporadic actions associated with the novelty of change or of occasional impulses of the senior management, but rather, on the contrary, they have to become the new way of running organizations.
There are other characteristics that will appear in a quick reflection, and which can be used to expand this list in each case in particular, but these seven are truly important and essential to produce the change that is required in organizations:
1. Develop the values of a good leader
This is not negotiable. Being a good leader implicitly entails being a good person.
It is not necessary to offer a detailed list of the values implicit to being a good person, but they are of course, principles like authenticity, ethics, empathy, clarity, flexibility and support for the team.
One aspect that appears to be especially important in this field is vulnerability, sincerity, humility to acknowledge that you do not know everything, and the most important thing, that the team have all the skills to successfully carry out the work to achieve the objectives.
2. They are results oriented based on customer experience
The “how” is just as important as the “what”.
It is a key function in team management. Production results and customer satisfaction are two inseparable indicators. Quality in sales has become an essential element for the sustainable success of companies.
3. They set an example in adapting to change
Coherence in management is an essential element. It is time, not just to tell, but above all, to do, setting an example to follow in the implementation of new ideas and ways of working.
Albert Einstein used to say “setting an example is not the best way to influence people. It is the only way”. If you take this magnificent reflection on board, there is not much more to add.
4. They accompany the team in the transformation
Today’s executives have a very important coaching task to do. It is what we have been calling close leadership. I think we will all agree on its importance at this time, but:
- Are we ready to exercise it?
- Do we spend enough time on it? Let’s check on our agenda!
5. They promote a culture of learning and innovation
There is no doubt that organizations that manage to instill a restlessness to learn, innovate and improve in their DNA are motivated organizations in which change is adopted more easily and projects flow with agility.
Creating this habit in the team is a competitive edge for companies and they can transmit this enthusiasm and the commitment to continue improving and advancing in the experience of their customers to the market.
Today’s executive must be aware that understanding the potential of new technologies and getting it across to the team is an essential element in their professional profile.
Obviously, it is not a case of being experts, or of knowing the latest technical innovation in detail, but they do have to understand the changes that are occurring in business models and how their application can help us in our relations with customers.
6. They integrate
Today’s executives have to convert the potential chaos of the rate of change that is occurring in organizations into positive results and, to such end, a key aspect has to be the integration factor that will be implemented in the different areas.
Thus, they will have to integrate cultures (the fundaments of the business) with new digital ideas, data (getting across to the teams the importance of quality, completeness and information security), channels (if the customer and the organization is multi-channel, the leader has to be too) and functions (breaking down the organization’s silos and promoting agility and flexibility in business).
7. They plan the present to win the future
The field of the close leader takes the form of the skill to combine everyday results with actions that guarantee the future of the leaders and their team. In a practical sense, this habit is specifically included in the agenda; it is as simple as that to say, but complicated to do. How much time do we spend on the agenda going forward? or How much time do we spend a week on staying in the loop and supporting our teams in assimilating the new models?
At times of radical changes like now, when high-impact decisions have to be made, and quickly, when helping teams in their digital journey is a priority and when markets are increasingly competitive and global, developing this close leadership, feeling close to employees and customers acquires a greater dimension and becomes the key factor for organizations to grow, transform and triumph.