Exploring Leadership In The Digital Era

Exploring Leadership In The Digital Era
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“The Internet is becoming the town square for the global village of tomorrow.” — Bill Gates

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Q2 2020 hedge fund letters, conferences and more

Currently, digital literacy and digital leadership are discussed widely across the world because of the growing significance of social media. The baby boomers are struggling to understand social media. Gen X is struggling to apply social media tools and techniques due to the cut-throat competition from Gen Y. The Gen Y is thriving on digital technology and has a competitive and strategic advantage over Gen X and baby boomers.

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Digital literacy is essential for leaders and all stakeholders in the present world. It helps them upgrade and update their leadership styles to keep them relevant to the latest times and technologies. In the 20th century, those who cannot read and write are known as illiterates. However, in the 21st century, those who cannot understand and apply social media tools and technologies are known as illiterates.  There is a drastic shift in the definition of literacy in the 21st century due to the rapid explosion of digital technology.

Digital Literacy in the 21st Century

The digital world involves the usage of digital devices such as smartphones, tablets, laptops, and desktop PCs. Hence, digital acumen is imperative for business leaders in today's hyper-competitive, and technology-enabled world.

Digital literacy is imperative to everyone in the present world because of various reasons. First, everyone needs to understand how technology is expanding and in which direction it is moving. Second, it is essential to understand the rising expectations of customers, clients, and various other stakeholders. Third, it is essential to improve and update knowledge to become technologically savvy to equip with the latest leadership tools and techniques. Fourth, it is essential to add value to the global society.

It is a well-admitted fact that the social and digital technologies are changing unexpectedly leading to increased expectations and aspirations from all stakeholders thus throwing both threats and opportunities. The threats include volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity; and the opportunities include the creation of new products and services for clients and customers, and immense career opportunities and advancement for employees. It also throws challenges and offers opportunities for leaders as they will have unpredictable challenges on the one hand; and opportunities to unlock their leadership potential on the other hand.

What is Digital Leadership?

Digital leadership is not totally different from basic leadership. All that digital leadership requires is the usage of social media tools and technologies to lead the stakeholders effectively. Human beings remain the same at the core level with different egos, emotions, and feelings. However, with the advent of technology, they have become a digital-savvy and the leaders must customize their leadership styles to lead people in this digital era. Hence, there is an urgent need for digital leadership.

Digital leadership is beyond borders with a strong presence on social media. It helps work smarter, not harder. It involves the usage of technology and social media tools and technologies in the digital world. Hence, digital leadership can be defined as the ability to lead in the digital era by understanding social media tools and technologies, aspirations of all the stakeholders, and adjusting leadership styles accordingly to achieve organizational goals and objectives. It can be applied to achieve organizational excellence and effectiveness for profits and nonprofits both locally and globally.  Since digital leadership is the center of focus globally it is essential to build both corporate culture and digital culture in employees. Individuals and organizations must be agile to adapt with speed to apply digital technologies to reap the rewards in the 21st century.

Importance of Digital Literacy for Leaders

Every leader in the 21st century must participate in social media platforms from a professional perspective to get better to make their presence felt. It requires precious time, not money. It is the best way to connect with the world to know their pulse and get their feedback. And it helps digital leaders understand where they stand vis-à-vis their counterparts and innovate their products and services as per the expectations of their customers and clients. It helps them remain relevant and get noticed rapidly to build their leadership brands globally.

In the present global scenario, every leader must spend some time regularly on social media platforms to understand the developments across the world. It helps them update and upgrade their knowledge and enhance their leadership tools and techniques to ensure leadership effectiveness. Hence, leaders in the 21st century need to employ, deploy, and develop social media tools to improve decision-making skills. Being digital-savvy helps leaders come up with innovative solutions quickly. It helps them compete with others to ensure strategic advantage over others.

Several global organizations understood the significance of digital technology, applied them effectively, and reaped rewards. Hence, digital leaders must understand how to exploit technologies to achieve their organizational goals and objectives. 


In this digital era, employees aspire to be partners rather than as followers; and employers aspire to be catalysts rather than as leaders. There is a radical shift in the mindset of both leaders and followers which is a positive sign in the 21st century.  Additionally, there is a drastic shift in leadership styles from autocratic to democratic and now to a partnership where there are no leaders and followers.

If the leaders have to survive in the 21st century, they must be literate digitally and reinvent as per the expectations and aspirations of the stakeholders, and deliver their best to remain relevant and effective. They must adopt a digital leadership style which is a blend of new characteristics, behaviors, skills, abilities, and knowledge.  It helps them build digital organizations globally. It requires an integrated approach from all stakeholders including suppliers, customers, employees, board members, and thought leaders to achieve their objectives.

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Professor M.S. Rao, Ph.D. is the Father of “Soft Leadership” and Founder of MSR Leadership Consultants, India. He is an International Leadership Guru with thirty-nine years of experience and the author of forty-eight books including the award-winning ‘See the Light in You’ URL: https://www.amazon.com/See-Light-You-Spiritual-Mindfulness/dp/1949003132. He is a C-Suite advisor and a sought-after keynote speaker globally. He brings a strategic eye and long-range vision given his multifaceted professional experience including military, teaching, training, research, consultancy, and philosophy. He is passionate about serving and making a difference in the lives of others. He trains a new generation of leaders through leadership education and publications. His vision is to build one million students as global leaders by 2030 URL: http://professormsraovision2030.blogspot.com/2014/12/professor-m-s-raos-vision-2030-one_31.html. He has the vision to share knowledge freely with one billion people globally. He advocates gender equality globally (#HeForShe). He was ranked #1 Thought Leader and Influencer on Culture Globally by Thinkers360 URL: https://www.thinkers360.com/top-50-global-thought-leaders-and-influencers-on-culture-february-2020/. He invests his time in authoring books and blogging on executive education, learning, and leadership. Most of his work is available free of charge on his four blogs including http://professormsraovision2030.blogspot.com. He is a prolific author and a dynamic, energetic, and inspirational leadership speaker. He can be reached at [email protected]
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