Digital transformation: 11 signs of a successful leader

Digital transformation: 11 signs of a successful leader

The competencies of a successful digital transformation leader can be markedly different from those of the traditional IT boss. For aspiring digital transformation leaders – or CIOs looking to fill digital leadership roles - these traits and skills matter

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7. They ask "why not" rather than "why"

The most effective digital transformation leaders bring the business with them. “[They] create solutions that answer business problems rather than operational or IT problems,” ISG’s Fisher says. “They know that IT is an enabler of transformation, [not the] transformation itself.”

8. They are mavericks

Speed? Conventions? Out the window. The best digital leaders know the old rules no longer apply and look for partners who can help them challenge the status quo. “The best way for IT leaders to improve and continuously keep up with the speed of IT is to establish a broad ecosystem of technology partners, which bring the latest in innovation and leading practices,” Bentham says.

9. They inspire others

Clear vision is critical. Even more important is the ability to move others. “Leaders need the ability to build focus, set a clear vision, explain it to their teams, and then inspire the teams to execute on the vision,” says Miglani of West Monroe. “The key here is to ensure that there is a well-defined vision that not just the technology team, but the entire organization can drive towards. The leader has to build a culture of collaboration and transparency.”

10. They prioritize customer experience

“All too often, technology leaders lead with providing the best or latest technology solutions without consideration for the actual customer experience,” says Miglani. “Successful tech leaders think of the customer first. A great way for leaders to build better appreciation for this is to get in front of customers, talk to them, and understand the pros and cons of their existing solutions.”

11. They serve as enterprise change agents

The most successful digital transformation leaders take on this role and gladly oversee customer experience transformation, reinventing the business model, elevating operational excellence, or ensuring trust and compliance. “The IT leader who has the ability to connect these transformation agendas to revenue, profit, and/or sustainability,” says Capgemini’s Bentham, “is ultimately the one who succeeds.”

[ Will your organization thrive in 2021? Learn the four priorities top CIOs are focusing on now. Download the HBR Analytic Services report: IT Leadership in the Next Normal. ]

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