Organizations that have taken a planned and structured approach to managing the transition to a “digital business” are seeing a huge shift in employee mindset and skills. These are all positive moves, but it’s not always an easy evolution. The shift can be managed effectively if leaders responsible for the digital modernization/ transformation—including CIOs, CTOs and CDOs—have a high level of emotional intelligence.
In a 1998 Harvard Business Review article, “What Makes a Good Leader,” psychologist and author Daniel Goleman defined five components of emotional intelligence. The article was written almost 20 years ago, but these components align well with the skills needed to be a strong digital leader.
Here are the components Goleman defined, within the context of digital leadership:
- Self awareness. A self-aware leader has the confidence to make decisions for the business. This includes decisions related to the technology that supports and drives the business. Leaders with this skill can quickly make sound decisions about technology tools and vendors.
- Self regulation. Self regulation enables digital leaders to keep their emotions in check as they manage both new areas of growth and the changing dynamics of the teams they directly manage.
- Motivation. It is equally important that in today’s competitive and unpredictable business environment, digital leaders are able to motivate their teams. A motivated team can think creatively and collaboratively, embrace change, and drive innovation—even in (or, maybe, especially in) tense situations. Leaders who are motivated are also effective in laying the groundwork for both short-term and long-term initiatives, helping ensure success for years to come.
- Empathy. Empathy (the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes) is one of the most important emotional intelligence components for digital leaders, especially when it’s time to take new products to market. Empathy for the customer helps new products and services align with the real-world needs of those who will be consuming them.
- Social skills. People who can work across the business and IT sides of the organization, as well as with customers and potential customers, can effect the kind of change it takes to become a highly competitive player in the new digital economy.
Emotional intelligence might not be the first thing you think of when determining the most important qualities of a digital leader, but as the speed of change and customer demand increases, it may well be one of the most important things to consider.