I was following a couple of conferences today through the Twitter hashtags. Both were discussing the role, benefits and issues related to social media. Among the subjects and questions was an interesting one that got me thinking. It was whether people at the conference were going to be ‘digital leaders’. I wondered what I would class as qualities of a digital leader and I have five priorities:
1. Be open to new ideas – it is easy to want to keep on the path you have previously trod. The predictability is comforting as you can do the same and know you will get similar results. If you try new things you have to be prepared for the unexpected to be the effect. But for those looking to you for leadership you have to be prepared to step into the unknown and to try new things.
2. Keep up to date with developments – to be a true leader you have to be able to keep on top of the rapidly changing digital landscape. This can be done in many ways. It may be that you tap into some of the top digital update websites, follow key individuals on social media or find another way to stay on top of things. For me a digital leader may not know the real detail of how some of the new apps and technology work but they will know that they exist and that they are being used. You don’t have to be a geek to keep aware of the digital developments.
3. Be prepared to take a few risks – this is definitely linked to the new ideas in point one. If you are going to try some new things using the technology then you absolutely have to be prepared to take a few risks. For communication professionals this means gaining the confidence of bosses so that they are prepared to let you try new things with only a small safety net or possibly no net at all. Of course sometimes things will go slightly awry but it is how you then manage the aftermath that matters. If you want to get somewhere new then you have to do new things.
4. Listen to experts – for managers and leaders who want to step into the digital world it is really worth listening to the geeks and those experts who can help you navigate the way forward. If you are going to develop into a digital leader you will need the specialist advice to help you make the most and keep up-to-date with developments. No-one knows everything and you need to recognise where you need assistance.
5. Encourage engagement and listening – ultimately the social media arena is about engaging and having conversations. Seeking feedback and then listening to it is vital. If you are a digital leader then you need to listen to the advisers you have but also to the feedback that you receive. Lead by example and ensure that you have moved away from broadcast mode and into real engagement.
For me those are five key qualities that distinguish the digital leader from the general manager or boss. Do you have any qualities you would add?