The long hard look at leadership
Why are employees becoming less satisfied with their leaders?
Recent research indicates that leaders aren’t doing enough to change themselves or the business environment, or help employees to change personally
It’s always interesting to observe how today’s leaders are progressing on their paths to drive a clear vision, positively influence employee behaviour, and move their businesses forward, despite operating in uncertain times. Interestingly, according to our recently published NTT 2019 Digital Means Business Benchmarking Report, employees are currently dissatisfied with their leaders, on a number of levels.
Respondents ranked their satisfaction in the ability of their leadership to effectively drive digital change:
- Only 48.8% of respondents are 'satisfied' and believe that their leadership teams have the right skills to manage the execution of a digital strategy.
- Only 11.3% are ‘highly satisfied’ with this effort.
- Respondents cite a ‘lack of executive sponsorship and/or ownership’ as the joint top barrier to success, along with a ‘lack of funding/budget pressures’.
This is disturbing because no transformation can be achieved in isolation of leadership, as they’re required to drive the organization forward in so many ways.
Delivering on the new leadership mandate
The notion that digital is more than technology isn’t new and has become widely accepted. In recent years, there’s been greater recognition that digital is more about people, their behaviours, and mindsets.
Leaders themselves acknowledge that until now, they’ve been experts in their respective fields, and able to share extensive knowledge and capabilities within this realm. However, digital has required everyone to develop and adjust ─ not only in terms of their core knowledge but also their soft skills and abilities, such as creativity and critical thinking. Developing additional skills that are relevant to the digital world is, therefore, an imperative.
Many leaders admit that they’re both uncomfortable and insufficiently prepared to bridge the divide from traditional to digital. While leaders may feel this way, they must bear in mind that they still have control and influence over every touchpoint of the organization.
This ultimately means that to enable the business to transform, leaders need to be willing and able to change personally. Leaders need to pioneer that change. Yes, it may make them feel vulnerable and exposed – but it’s the only way.
My top 2 guiding principles for successful leadership
- Change starts within
Digital success will elude leaders who simply tell employees that ‘they need to change’. Leaders need to continually reinforce and drive the need to transform the organization and champion digital empowerment. This requires them to change within themselves. Successful leaders are also willing to let go of ‘what got them here’, however uncomfortable that feels.
This also means ‘walking the vulnerable road’ with people, whether in one-on-one conversations or one-to-many communication. If leaders fail to do this regularly and effectively, they won’t be able to embed change within themselves, let alone anyone else. Now’s the time for leadership to stand up and pioneer that personal transformation ─ true digital leaders remain loyal to the cause.
‘If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.’ i
- Set new performance indicators
Businesses need to change the way they measure progress and success. This means finding new ways to gauge the effectiveness of cross-functional and collaborative efforts.
Many of these new measurements won’t follow the same line as existing, highly quantifiable metrics.
Ultimately, organizations who are successfully navigating the many challenges of digital transformation are able to introspect and identify how every person, but specifically leadership, is required to change. We see leaders who are thriving in this new environment being willing to shape and evolve their own leadership approach in a way that makes it possible for people to think and act differently.
If you’re interested in finding out more about our research and opinions on this topic, download the Executive Guide to the NTT 2019 Digital Means Business Benchmarking Report.
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Executive VP: Intelligent Business and Intelligent Workplace, NTT Ltd