Future of Leadership in the Digital Economy
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Leaders today have a huge developmental challenge. Many lack the skills and mindset to thrive in the digital economy.
MIT SMR and Cognizant recently completed a survey of more than 4,000 managers and leaders from over 120 countries around the world on the Future of Leadership in the Digital Economy. The results revealed that only 12% of respondents strongly agreed that their organizations’ leaders had the right mindset, and a scant 9% strongly agreed that their leaders had the proper skills to compete effectively in the new economy. But we shouldn’t start pointing fingers at only our most senior leaders: Just 13% of all executives surveyed strongly agreed that the rest of their organizations were prepared. Interviews with executives and scholars echo concerns about individual preparedness to lead in the digital economy. “When it comes to leading in today’s digital world,” notes Michael Schrage, an MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy researcher, “what I don’t see are enough leaders who are living in the business and leading by example. Actions speak louder than words, and actions spring from mindsets.”
The mindset gap is more concerning than the skills deficit. Why? We can train for the digital skills that are important for future success, but developing a digital mindset is a more complex challenge because it is a less tangible one to address. And here’s my biggest concern: Mindset gaps create blind spots. It’s tough to be a great leader when we don’t know what we don’t know.
There are four digital blind spots we need to avoid: strategic, cultural, human capital, and personal.
Blind Spot No. 1: Strategic
An overwhelming majority of respondents from our survey indicate that the most important leadership requirement in the digital economy is providing clarity of purpose, vision, and strategy. Let’s say you are in a business that is rapidly migrating from products to platforms. You are most likely doing so in an ecosystem environment — a complex array of partnerships with users, customers, and suppliers. You might even partner periodically with competitors when mutual benefit overshadows the core rivalry.