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Leadership 3.0: Upgrading Leadership for the Digital World

5 min read

Kate Sweetman is a global management consultant concerned with all aspects of leadership, from strategy development through execution to creating sustainable cultures of deeply connected and supportive communities. A former editor for Harvard Business Review, Kate’s work has been published around the globe.  She has been designated one of the World’s Top 20 Emerging Management Gurus by The Times.  Kate was also named in the 2017 Thinkers 50 Radar of the 30 management thinkers most likely to shape the future of how organizations are managed and led.

“If Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos were to target your industry for disruption, would you have the leadership culture to survive? Thrive?”

This is the question that we have posed to thousands of professionals in over 40 countries and over 40 industries over the past two years.  Members of the C-suite, HR heads, Digital Transformation leaders, internal and external talent managers, neuroscientists and anthropologists – all responsible and seasoned experts in their fields concerned about what the digital world means for them, their organizations and the world.  The answer – virtually without exception – is an instant “no.”

Intuitively – reflexively – they know that we ALL compete with Amazon every day in terms of delivering value, performance, service, and innovation at low cost – all at the same time. And yet most companies also know that they fall short, leaving the challenge unaddressed in any real way and the opportunity unrealized. The tools for transformation are digital, no question.  True competitive advantage, however, lies in how those tools are deployed strategically, and how they affect decisions that are very large (say, around organizational form, business model, and the fundamental bases of competition) as well as very tactical (like, customer experience that is exceptional in the smallest detail).

It is leaders, not digital tools, which make those decisions.  And when those decisions go unaddressed or misaddressed, the company cannot succeed.

Our research has defined a new form of leadership for the digital world.  We call it Leadership 3.0 – the software upgrade needed for today and, even more so, for tomorrow. Digital leaders surpass conventional leaders in their ability to take in, make sense of, and act on the changes taking place all over the world (inside and outside their industries).  Digital leaders create incredible connections with people and organizations that can help them succeed, both internally and in their ecosystems.  Digital leaders solve problems that baffle the conventional experts. Leadership 3.0 practitioners represent a significant upgrade in effectiveness and capability throughout the world.

Leaders at any level need to develop the knowledge, skills, attitudes and beliefs that will utterly change how they and their people approach the incredible opportunities in this fast-spinning world.

Five Key Lessons

Understanding five key lessons will help all leaders to succeed in the age of disruption:

1 We all compete with Amazon. Everyone’s real-time attention span is shorter, and our expectation for frictionless interactions is higher.

Lesson: We must all be willing and able to provide real-time intimacy and ultra-personalization.

  1. We don’t need to own anything. 
Ownership of every asset impedes
the flexibility required in a world in which pivoting
is vital, and speed is everything. The wealthiest companies in the world today create offerings together with third parties. They form loose, yet powerful networks in robust ecosystems.

Lesson: We must be willing and able to access needed capabilities, whether we own them or not.

  1. We have no secrets. Big business, small business, governments, individuals – anyone can use Reddit, BitTorrent, Digg, StumbleUpon, Slack or others to cooperate and collaborate. The hardest thing today is not accessing information, but keeping it under wraps so competitive advantage can be increased.

Lesson: Behave as if your daily diary is on the front page of the FT.

  1. We must avoid the echo chamber.Nothing impedes learning, adapting and changing more than believing only in our existing assumptions. Our past experiences and outdated mindset should not act as powerful gatekeepers keeping us from doing the best thing.

Lesson: Constantly open your ideas and assumptions to scrutiny from a diversity of outsiders.

  1. We are being virtually tracked.Try getting off the grid and see how impossible it has become. Shed your smartphone and your credit card; lose your e-wallets, e-banks and e-retailing relationship; throw Alexis and Siri in the bin; get off the web entirely. You’ll still be trackable in cities on CCTV and in the country by drones. But the good news is this – tracking technology can make it much easier to focus on crucial activities in our businesses, and make it much easier to complete them through automation.

Lesson:  Learn to embrace technology accelerators in your quest to stay competitive.

CSA Speaker Bulletin September 2018


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