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The quest for digitally endowed leaders

The Digital Future
By Martin Dower.

Young upstarts and digitally smart companies are causing a real headache for established businesses and the absence of digital savvy is the boardroom is now critical.

In the same way business leaders had to adapt to a world without personal assistants, typing pools and secretaries – one of the greatest challenges today is to educate leaders in “the way of digital”.

I was watching Dragons’ Den, a popularised (and somewhat fictionalised) programme whereby the great and the good of the business world make life-changing decisions to help or berate budding entrepreneurs. Ok, it’s only a TV programme but I cringe whenever a digitally-based startup walks into the den and is given a lecture on “that is not how I would do it”. The dragons are dinosaurs and, like many business leaders, are rapidly becoming irrelevant.

Business leaders are so far out of touch its embarrassing. And this is not just confined to old businesses – it’s shocking to see the number of new businesses, often in new digital fields, owned and lead by fuddy-duddies living in a world of glass-palaces, wielding filofaxes! We’re moved since the 1980’s, that’s a third of a century ago.

What marks out the new tranche of digital leaders is a keenness to adopt new technology and challenge old maxims. Google identified this weakness and have introduced a broad programme to help executives and marketing folks understand the new world. I would go one step further and suggest that any digital leader or marketing bod should be conversant with most aspects of the digital language. This could mean taking time to complete the wonderful Code Academy, or attend a WordPress WordCamp event.

If the head of your organisation doesn’t use an iPad and still relies on a secretary to do his bidding then it’s time to move on. Digital is more than a cornerstone, more than a C-level hire, it’s as fundamental as the ability to read, write and speak.

Get digitally educated, or take up fishing.