I’m a fan of surfing. That being said, I’m a beginner so I “wipe out” most of the time. Wiping out just means I spend more time underwater than standing on my board and actually riding the waves. But surfing is still magical and it’s all about being proactive.

Proactive versus Reactive

To catch the perfect wave you need to read the waves way before they come near you. You see the waves from far away and you position yourself in a spot so that you catch the sweet spot of the wave. When I first started surfing I was always too late in reading the waves. This either made me lose the wave or get on the wave too late and just wipe out. The better you can proactively read and position yourself for the wave, the better your chances of actually riding the wave.

Riding the wave of digital transformation
Catching the (Bali) waves of Digital Transformation

The same applies to leadership in digital transformation. Many leaders nowadays think it’s sufficient to just be reactive on the digital transformation that’s going on in their industry. Newsflash, it’s not enough! Leaders need to be proactive and stay ahead of the market developments. Given the vast number of changes happening daily due to technology’s advancement, today’s leaders are under a great amount of pressure to know more than ever before. The following are 4 essential traits all leaders need to embrace if they want their company to ride the wave of digital transformation instead of wiping out:

  1. Breath Technology

Are you up to date on the happenings within technology? How can the Internet of Things (IoT), analytics, artificial intelligence or machine learning help your customers and company’s greater good? Today’s leaders need to know every tech trend in their industry. As leaders within the digital transformation era, we need to understand that customers don’t just develop standards based on what they experience buying your product. They develop expectations based on every single interaction they have in the digital landscape. According to a recent Gartner survey, 60% of business leaders don’t really know the possibilities associated with current technologies. Understanding how to leverage technology for the benefit of your customers and thus your company is not only the CTO or CIO’s responsibility but every single leader in the company should care.

  1. Balance Present and Future

I get it. Your P&L needs to look good at the next board meeting. We all have our financial responsibilities and audits that need to be prepared. But with digital transformation being so new to many companies, leaders need to learn to balance present and future obligations. The only way your company can last is if leaders proactively prepare for the future without forgetting the present obligations. This means that IT teams need to build for both the current use case, as well as the next. The fact of the matter is that most companies are focusing far more on the present with little future focus and budget. In fact, research shows the average business spends more than 80% of their IT budget just on keeping current systems running. This leaves little to no room for innovation and increases the chances of wiping out instead of riding the digital wave in style.

  1. Experience Obsessed

Besides knowing and understanding current and future technologies, leadership needs to know the impact it might have on your customers. From the humble beginnings of the launch of our e-commerce company we always asked ourselves and customers how we could make the experience better for them. Understanding their shopping behaviour, proactively sending them promotions for products that they’ve bought before and sending them a thoughtful happy birthday present are small examples of how you can improve the experience for your customers. Fundamentally leadership needs to be obsessed with the customer experience and hungry for change.

  1. Embrace Data
Effective digital leaders in today’s market need to use technology and data to make smarter, more strategic decisions. They need to understand how they can leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning whenever possible. They need to adopt cloud and SaaS solutions to make their processes leaner and more scalable. Data is the new gold, so better understand how to use it for the future.

Conclusion

Today’s leaders are under constant pressure when it comes to adapting and guiding the company through these disruptive times. But fundamentally leadership is and has always been about: creating value for customers, focusing and understanding your customers, making the company better in all aspects, inspiring and guiding the organization through times of change. So looking at it from that perspective, nothing fundamentally has changed. It’s the tools and speed that has changed. To ride the wave of digital transformation it’s critical that leaders transform their traditional thinking, be proactive and embrace technology like never before.

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