19 Self-leadership Skills to Develop in the Digital Age

24 July, 2020

By Ezgi Türkmen, Duman Management Consultancy (Turkey)

 When talking about leadership skills, what first come to mind are mostly the glamorous characteristics related to the lifestyle and behaviors attributed to a leader, along with experience, connections and a quest to “climb the ladder” of the managerial hierarchy. A better, more meaningful way to look at leadership skills would be to focus on taking responsibility for an organization, driving strategy and its impact on organizational results.

This is achieved in grand part through building relationships and inspiring people. We all have an impact first on ourselves, and then, on our environments, but leadership is not only about “me”; it’s a combination of “me”, “us”, “them” and all of the three combined. Beyond the confines of an organization, leaders make a difference during moments when leadership mixes with life as a whole. This is where leaders really capture the real benefits and drive change.

Every moment when we are in contact with another individual, we affect them. This is especially true in negative terms (with colleagues, family, friends, etc.) when we’re not able to catch ourselves in time. For this very reason, before talking about leadership skills, we should emphasize this fact as an important reminder, which we tend to miss from time to time. To be a good leader means to lead ourselves during all of our interactions.

Keeping these basic points in mind, let us look at the skills we can attribute to self-leadership during the digital transformation process, which is fast moving and requires sharper leadership skills than ever before.

• Broader vision
Being aware of what is going on, getting the “big picture”, rather than simply knowing the details about digitalization, embracing an approach of exploration, and re-designing today by preserving the vision of the future.

• Talent acquisition and management
Choosing strong teammates who have extensive job-related knowledge, experience and skills, and who are also highly motivated.

• Being analytical
Being able to combine various data streams into a meaningful whole, transferring this into a vision and creating a strategy towards achieving that vision.

• Being flexible
Being willing to go beyond one’s own knowledge and ways of doing things to change, transform and feed the team from these perspectives. To give initiative to others, and be a follower rather than a leader, when needed.

• Self-awareness and self-management
Being able to discover one’s own strengths, by asking  “what are the things that I am good at, and how can I create a positive impact?”. Adopting a proactive approach to figure out where our strengths lie and how it would benefit the needs of our team and organization. By not just staying in self-discovery phase but demonstrating change and transformation as a result of these discoveries will benefit others and create a positive impact.

• Being a successful change leader
Being able to say, “we are affected as a whole by this change, we are working together on realizing the impacts and revising the negative to positive. We are supporting each other, progressing within the course of our vision, and when necessary, we are making strategic and actional revisions by preserving our flexibility”.

• Being a communications guru
Understanding the essence of creating impact and persuasion, and at the very core of this, being a role model. Being transparent with the impact of change on oneself and leading these impacts. Strong communication is also about understanding stress, the nature of communication, the difficulties that might come up during communication and taking preventive actions beforehand.

• Creating “pit-stops” in-between
Asking questions like, “where are we, what is going on currently, is everything alright, are we on track, how is the team doing, how are the customers doing, what are we expecting from tomorrow and how ready are we for these?” to both ourselves, our teams and to a third person in certain pre-determined periods of time.

 Sparing time for ourselves
Planning small breaks to get distanced and refreshed by making reflections and organizing energy management. Also, developing a meta perspective (the perspective from above to see the whole and the relations among the pieces of the whole) and finding ways to keep it constantly in the game by giving a chance to coaching as a tool to support this.

• Sparing time for others
Being voluntary and willing to spare time for our teams by remembering that leadership is also about spending time with all “levels” of the team.

 Being open-minded
Being a pioneer, supporter and believer of change transformation.

• Cultural awareness
What are the effects of digital transformation on “my culture”, “my team’s culture”, “my organization’s culture”, and “the culture of our customers?” On our way towards achieving our vision, is there a need for our culture to change and evolve? If not, what are the things to be done to protect our existing culture? If yes, how can we do it?

• Customer-focus
Understanding the impacts of this rapid change on our customers and being a consultant to them while they manage change. Spending more time with clients and at a higher frequency compared to the past.

• Not staying in strategy but rolling up our sleeves and getting out in the field
Especially when we reach the higher rungs of the leadership ladder, there is a strong possibility for us to move away from the realities of our teammates who are in the front line doing the job and running the operations. Therefore, it is essential to be aware of the important contributors between them and us.

• Taking responsibility
Being brave, taking decisions, executing and owning the results.

• Willingness to collaborate
Collaborating not just with our own team or within our own organization, but also with our customers, our competitors, those from other sectors, etc. Embracing the approach of “exploring together, finding proactive solutions together, winning together, and growing together” in the face of the high pace by digitalization.

• Challenging the “standard” and what has been there for a long time
Asking questions such as “is this still beneficial, does this serve our aim, and what else could be done?”

• Employer brand management
Being aware of what has been going on for oneself, the team and the organization in terms of adaptation to digital transformation and communicating these both internally and externally. Contributing to employee engagement, talent attraction and talent retention.

 Managing the perception of ourselves
Checking how we are leading our own digital existence and applying these skills not only in our business lives but also in our day-to-day lives, with an aim to attain a state where what we say is consistent with what we do.

As mentioned at the beginning, the main aspect while talking about leadership is how inclined we are to become aware of ourselves and to work on ourselves based on that awareness. We can link this sentence to any of the concepts like business results, capabilities, team, communication, strategy, change and many more.  

How willing are we to become aware of our own selves and to work on our discoveries? It is not about making an effort to change every single aspect that we will discover; but focusing on the importance of understanding and considering the impact that we create.

In a nutshell, do we have the luxury of not focusing on self-leadership in a process like digital transformation, which requires quick adaptation and action?

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