These Four Traits Can Help You Become a Better Digital Transformation Leader

by Sandra Petrova

7 min read

In 2013, Adeva embarked on a challenging attempt to digitally transform its services. The company built a team and came up with a solution that was supposed to deliver an innovative solution to customers.

However, we ran into significant growth and performance challenges. We had plenty of resources, including a substantial budget and people with exceptional skills. What did we lack and who was to blame for the major setback?

After detailed analysis and examination, it was apparent that one of the reasons for the setback was the leadership. Evidence showed that the leader wasn’t ready as an individual to lead the transformation and set goals that had no idea how to achieve. Sadly, the leader of the change didn’t believe in the company’s digital future.

This brings us to the question: what skills should a digital transformation leader possess that are crucial for the innovation process? Let’s take a closer look at the four essential traits of digital transformation leadership.

Digital Leaders Are Futuristic Visionaries

In 1964, after attending the World's Fair, Isaac Asimov wrote an article for the New York Times envisioning what inventions would be on display at the Fair in fifty years. He imagined robot-brain cars, capable of self-driving. Fifty years later, his predictions are about to come true.

In the original Star Trek series, one of the most famous gadgets was the “communicator,” a wireless phone. Martin Cooper who oversaw the invention of the first mobile phone directly credited the Star Trek communication for inspiring the invention.

The writers of the original Star Trek series and Isaac Asimov are an example of futuristic visionaries. Their innovative thinking has an interesting role in the development of major technologies. Leaders of digital transformation should possess the same ingenious qualities.

In order to achieve the digital dream, leaders should:

  • think ahead, always searching for an opportunity
  • look beyond today, tomorrow, 10 years from tomorrow
  • give employees an open place to innovate and experiment
  • reward those who succeed
  • support those who fail and learn from their mistakes
digital transformation leadership

Source: Startupist

The Leaders in Digital Transformation Grab Every Opportunity For Experimentation

Did you know that experiments transformed our world? Faraday performed a number of experiments trying to show the link between electricity and magnetism, inventing, along the way, the electric motor. Galileo dropped two balls, a heavy one and a light one, from the Leaning Tower of Pisa to test how gravity worked.

Just like with science experiments, experimentation at companies is crucial for the success of the digital transformation. The digital leader must grab every opportunity for experimentation in order to explore new technologies and ideas.

Experimentation is so important that many companies have started opening “innovation labs” to manage innovation. If you search the term on Google, you’ll discover a plethora of innovation labs that are opening up at the speed of light. These labs serve as hubs that help in creating great products with good business models.

So, building an experimentation culture is vital to surviving. Every chief digital leader must:

  • Embrace failure. Otherwise, it would be difficult to create a culture of innovation and experimentation.
  • Strive for high returns but launch incremental changes. Step-by-step changes will help you achieve your targets and avoid unrest within the organization.
  • Analyze your experiments. Check whether your experiments are working and what can you do to make them more effective. The analysis could help you plan your future experiments.
  • Document everything and share the results. Keep track of all successes and failures and share them with your team. Your team should learn from their failures, share their insights, and receive feedback. This is a productive way of encouraging a culture of innovation and broader participation.
digital transformation leadership

Source: Fintechnews

Digital Officers Collaborate With Other Leaders and Teams

According to a recent report by Deloitte Digital and MIT Sloan, 70 percent of digitally mature businesses are using cross-functional teams to organize work. Growth-thinking companies bring leaders and teams from different sectors together to work on finding solutions to face enterprise challenges. And with more agile networked and remote teams, collaborative skills are essential in the digital age.

These realities have created different expectations from digital officers. To successfully navigate innovation and change, the digital leadership must collaborate with other leaders and teams. Their views will enrich the input and help make better decisions about the digital strategy and how to implement it. The end goal should be to make the entire company a well-oiled machine.

In a nutshell, leading digital transformation requires:

  • An agile leader who isn’t scared of collaborating with other leaders and teams.
  • Embracing collaboration head-on.
  • Mixing people, machines and business processes together.
  • Continuously monitoring to make sure that leaders and teams are making good decisions about their transformation efforts.
  • Intervening if someone strays from the digital transformation strategy.
digital transformation leadership
Source: Sloan Review

Digital Leaders Strive to Make Employees More Engaged in Their Work

The human factor is often neglected when driving digital transformation. The most difficult scenario can happen in a traditional company that has decided to go digital. You can find people working here who have a deep-rooted need for stability and a resistance to change. Basically, in any company, you can find employees who feel like chaos is being introduced into their predictable workplace. For this reason, a true digital transformation leader needs to succeed in changing people and their mindsets.

One research even showed that the behavior of senior leaders is the top change driver in a digital transformation strategy. To make employees accept the change and be more engaged in work, this is what every chief digital officer must do:

  • The digital transformation leadership must effectively communicate the company’s strategic vision to the employees. The communication needs to be ongoing, all throughout the digital transformation process. Why? Because the majority of employees would see the change as just another corporate program. They need to understand how relevant the change is and how it can change their lives, for the better. Their engagement rate will skyrocket once they start believing in the process.
  • Let the employees know that the digital transformation is a priority. They might get caught up in a different company initiative but the leader must clarify the importance of going digital.
  • Make progress reports a regular part of meetings. Employees need to visually see their impact on the organization. Talk about the role of digital in the organization and what it means for people.
digital transformation leadership


Captain Kirk is one of the most notable captains in the history of Starfleet. He negotiated peace with the Klingon Empire, saved planet Earth a couple of times, and stopped the Doomsday Machine. During his mission commanding the U.S.S. Enterprise, he was an ideal leader who led his people to “explore strange, new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, and to boldly go where no man has gone before”.

The digital transformation leader is similar to Captain Kirk. They need to safely lead their people into the unknown terrain of digital transformation, offering their knowledge and wisdom all throughout the process. The digital dream is within grasp. It’s achievable through a futuristic mindset, effective communication, and constant experimentation.

To sum up:

  • Digital leaders are futuristic visionaries. They look beyond today, tomorrow, 10 years from tomorrow.
  • The leaders in digital transformation grab every opportunity for experimentation.
  • Digital officers understand the importance of collaborating with other leaders and teams.
  • A true digital transformation leader needs to succeed in changing people and their mindsets.
Sandra Petrova
Sandra Petrova
Senior Content Editor

Sandra is a Senior Content Editor, particularly interested in the future of work. Her most valuable talent is searching under every rock to discover valuable information and incorporate it into well-written and insightful posts. When she's not typing in Google Docs, you can find her reading a fantasy novel, binging on Netflix, or watering her plants.

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