Why we need digital leaders?
When formulating the strategy for Digital, one needs to understand the detail of how some of the channels or digital technology work. This is not always understood or appreciated and strategic decisions are sometimes made by people higher up the chain with little understanding of the consequences. The Digital Lead is not consulted or advice is sought from their manager who is empowered to make these decisions but lacks the skills, knowledge and, sometimes, confidence to champion the solution recommended by their digital expert.
This results in digital talent dealing with the consequences of this decision (which is usually a complex, stressful and elaborate process) and becoming frustrated as they know that the solution could have been more sensible.
The Digital Lead often ends up feeling undervalued by an organisation’s culture and/or its senior management.
On the other hand, Digital Leads often lack the skills that would enable them to lead and provide support to senior management, which is one reason they can be seen as ‘difficult’. Colleagues and senior management can be reluctant to approach their digital leads because they will get a ‘no’ as the first answer to any proposition. Sometimes approaching a Digital team is like talking to the proverbial plumber – the moment someone outlines their idea, the team will outline the complexity of the work which – as with our plumber – will result in a high cost and a long delivery timeline. So no wonder that some colleagues and senior management do not want to consult the Digital team in the first place!
Essential behaviour: mutual respect
The way to bridge this gap is to develop digital leadership. Where any proposition discussed amongst colleagues is a good conversation starter and an opportunity to craft a brief that is appropriate for Digital and for the organisation.
This requires a change in attitude in Digital teams whereby they discuss ideas coming from senior management and colleagues with an open mind and with full respect. And it also requires a change in the attitude of senior management who need to show respect for the expertise of their digital leads, consult them and coach them on how to build strong relationships in the organisation and respond to requirements in a constructive way.