Role of a leader in Digital Transformation

The role of a leader in digital transformation is heroic in essence and not in presence. The mind of someone in power could be usually caught in the quagmire of everything that can be seen yet not reflected in the ‘being’.

Satya Nadella in his bestseller book ‘Hit Refresh’ speaks of digital leadership as being less about the technology prowess & ambition but more about being a custodian of culture that shifts from ‘know it all’ to ‘learn it all’. The result of this shift is telling of the transformation that took place at Microsoft. Satya’s role of infusing clarity & renewed energy to his large team makes Microsoft one of the most compelling examples of Digital Transformation in recent times, in ironically a very non-technology led way. The culture change was more about the ‘being’ of Microsoft and outcome is for all of us to ‘see’. Leader’s role is often in managing the paradoxes of ensuring the company nurturing its ‘being’ while being seen in the right light.

The leader’s role in the digital transformation is similar to her role in any other transformation, perhaps a lot beyond too. The question is what remains similar in leading the digital transformation as any other large-scale transformation and what lies beyond that common denominator in the context of Digital.


First, let us examine the similarities in responsibilities: To craft the purpose of the transformation with clarity, sharpness & sense of urgency; to ensure key leaders & senior managers recognize, appreciate & understand what change-leadership entails; to align internal systems to support the journey through systems thinking; to facilitate clear and coherent communication & finally to role model execution excellence and culture building for the organization to experience.

It is of much significance to remind ourselves of classical behaviours that are losing relevance or have lost it already in the Digital context. References from leadership failure stories in the 21st century indicate that the interactions shaped by the need to be proven right, explicit display of power, directing others to conform, holding and hoarding information are most certainly losing relevance.

Beyond what is being done right and what needs to be undone, lies a huge opportunity on what to do more. We believe the focus of the leader must be to focus in offering the meaning and context in which the transformation ‘can’ & ‘will’ be made possible. Giving meaning, significance & relevance to context demands significant cognitive effort from the leader. Simultaneously, one needs to develop digital dexterity that’s ahead of its time & present relevance.

Finally, leader must offer an organizational design that makes transformation possible.

"Digital Leadership is about offering meaning and context for transformation to the people, it’s less about the technology."

CEO, Hariraj Vijayakumar – Designs In Change.

 Role of a leader in Digital Transformation

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Updated Date: Nov 29, 2019 16:58:39 IST