7 characteristics you'll find in all excellent leaders

7 characteristics you'll find in all excellent leaders

Why don't dinosaurs roam the earth anymore? They were unable to adapt to their ever-changing environment. Unfortunately, nowadays, a lot of executives are comparable to dinosaurs. They run the risk of becoming a fossil because they fail to adapt to the new situation brought about by digital transformation. Technological advancement demands that one must know and do more than ever before. Leaders must “cultivate” the following 7 skills to stay at the top of their game.

Skill #1: They create clear values and vision 

In previous blog articles, we have already explained the importance of having a vision to give employees a clear focus and direction. The vision should be consistently clear and clearly consistent, no matter how products, services and technologies around you might change. Take IBM as an example: the company's values are not correlated to the products per se. IBM's values include:

  1. Commitment to the success of every client
  2. Innovation that matters - to our company and to the world
  3. Trust and personal responsibility in all relationships.

You might notice the following: When you have clear values and a meaningful vision, it becomes easy to make the right decisions, even daily. Do the decisions that you take fit your vision? Do they correspond with your values? Do the decision enable you to do what's best for your customers? If not, do not do it and make a different decision – as easy as that. 

Skill #2: Leaders enjoy new technologies

New technologies today are primarily about IoT (Internet of things), AI (artificial intelligence), chatbots, Big Data, AR (augmented reality) as well as VR (virtual reality). It is important to see the positive attributes about these new technologies, to recognize the opportunities, and to be open to the new possibilities they bring. However, it is not just about the technology itself, because without people who are able to use and implement the technology correctly, it is worthless. Above all, it is about inspiring yourself and others to properly use and implement these new technologies. You can do this by constantly striving to understand the customer and responding in an agile way. This includes thinking far ahead, which opens up a space for future innovation. 

Skill #3: They are obsessed with improvement 

There are many experts and professors who are very knowledgeable about new technological opportunities. That alone is not enough. Digital leaders have tremendous energy for action and are driven by change. They are obsessed with finding the absolute best technology to improve customer value as well as retention. They are constantly thinking proactively about how to meet customer needs before the customer even thinks about it him/herself. 

Skill #4: They fail fast and learn even faster 

During the Mesozoic Era, the big ate the small. Today, the fast eat the slow. Today, it is all about speed, rethinking one’s own portfolio, products, and business models. Digitization either helps to make processes better or leads to completely new opportunities. Technology, however, is not the key to all problems. That is why it's important not to use valuable time for unnecessary meetings and decision-making processes. Quick and controlled “trial and error” scenarios, allows you to learn quickly and learn accordingly. You will thus get better over time. Nowadays, agility is more important than ever. 

Skill #5:  They use data and technology to make better decisions 

Successful leaders use the technology available to make smarter, more strategic, and better decisions. They use Big Data and machine learning whenever possible. They use clouds and SaaS to make their processes leaner and more scalable; it is all about research. Those who do not use today's data are missing out and will not be able to adapt tomorrow's data. 

Skill #6: They demand agility and offer flexibility in exchange 

Young digital talents are more demanding than ever about working autonomously and flexibly. What this means for companies and HR decision-makers, is that you should increasingly look for top talent anywhere in the world. New structures make it possible to do work in the office, at a beach café, at home, and in different time zones. For managers and direct reports, the global talent search means new challenges in terms of leadership methods, employee retention and decision-making paths. The way forward is to embrace these challenges and adopt a flexible and agile leadership style. 

Skill #7: They put the "user experience" at the center of decisions

They understand the importance of focusing on, improving, and optimizing the user experience (customer experience). New technology enables a new way of personalization and a new way of looking at customer needs. Customers today want to be engaged. They define themselves through their purchasing decisions and identify with brands and products. An optimal "user experience" is a comprehensive undertaking in which all areas of the company must enable a uniformly positive experience. Every touch point counts. Analytics, evaluations, and constant feedback make it possible to adjust processes and further improve the customer experience.  Dinosaurs no longer play a role in the future. This is just as true for the large mammals as it is for unadaptable and inflexible executives and companies. Bottom line: today's leaders are under tremendous pressure to adapt to the age of chaotic and disruptive change. Yet the leadership traits in demand are the same as ever:

  • They are committed to the customer
  • They are focused on continuous improvement
  • They can provide direction and form their employees into teams capable of taking action despite massive change

When you break it down into these three goals, change will feel less overwhelming. It becomes pleasantly exciting to start the journey into a new digital world and to get excited about it.