Do You Have the Right Stuff to Be a Digital Leader?


A few years ago, the world shifted. Analog gave a cough, fell to its knees and let digital race ahead. How we function in the world has changed ever since.

Once, we lived in a strictly analog world where images, words and sounds were captured and stored on tangible things like cassette tapes or movie reels. Today, our world is dominated by digital, which means we convert information into 0s and 1s before we store it or display it.

But digital is so much more than those ones and zeros. It is how we communicate, bank, shop, work and entertain ourselves. It is how we connect with suppliers and how we open up new markets. And it is rapidly changing the nature of jobs. Just look at the drastic rise in the number of chief digital officers (CDO), the successor to the once-heralded chief information officer (CIO). It will take a fresh suite of skills digital leadership skills to navigate these new waters.

What Kind of Digital are You?
There are two types of digital workers: digital natives and digital immigrants.

A digital native was born after 1980, when the first social-digital technologies came into use. Think Usenet and bulletin boards. A digital native grew up with technology; they often intrinsically “get” them, knowing no other way.

Digital immigrants, however, are newer to the digital game; they were born pre-1980 in an analog world of clocks with hands and phones with dials. They are less familiar with the digital, growing up in a time without email or Facebook.

But here’s a caution: to say that one group gets technology and the other doesn’t is a gross generalization some digital immigrants are the enthusiastic first adopters who pioneer new technologies while some digital natives are Luddites who feel no affinity for the digital technology embraced by their peers.

Whether native or immigrant in the digital world, managers these days need more than just traditional leadership skills to inspire their teams. The world of work has and will continue to change, and employees come to the workplace with a whole new set of understandings and expectations. Managing these expectations takes digital leadership.

Here to Stay, for Now
Digital isn’t going away anytime soon and it will continue to have a large impact on workplaces, teams, processes and how businesses are run. Thinking digitally, embracing it and understanding it is an essential skill for today’s and tomorrow’s — managers to achieve digital leadership. 

David Alexander manages Digital at the Royal BC Museum and has a keen interest in technology trends that affect our business and lives.