ReimagineHR: In the Digital Age, What Does Great Leadership Look Like?

ReimagineHR: In the Digital Age, What Does Great Leadership Look Like?

Digitalization means much more for organizations than the adoption of digital technologies. It is a holistic change event that affects many fundamental pillars of how our businesses operate, including our people processes. One of these implications touches on how we select, develop, and deploy leaders, which has inspired a lot of concerned chatter about new “digital leadership” competencies that will make the most effective leaders of today and tomorrow dramatically different from those of the pre-digital era.

At Gartner’s ReimagineHR conference in Orlando on Monday, George Penn, VP and Team Manager at Gartner, facilitated a panel discussion with three experts in talent acquisition and development, drawing out their insights on how leadership really is changing in this new age, and which of these supposed changes are overhyped. Our panelists included Julie Loubaton, VP, Talent Acquisition at Keurig-Dr. Pepper; Christopher Lubrano, VP, Leadership and Organization Development at International Flavors and Fragrances; and Hari Abburi, VP, Global Talent at Dawn Food Products. Here are some key takeaways from Monday’s conversation:

Leadership fundamentals aren’t going anywhere

Foundational leadership qualities are still essential, Loubaton said. Businesses are, as always, looking for great strategic thinkers. Creativity, communication skills, and vision are as important as ever, the panelists noted, but these are not new. Lubrano also stressed the importance of fundamentals: Leaders today need a strong ethical foundation and an ability to connect with people and establish a sense of community among their team members. Again, these competencies have always been valuable elements of a managerial skill set. Strategic vision, creative thinking, and interpersonal skills remain table stakes for business leaders and most likely, always will.

So what is new?

Agility, adaptability, and the ability to lead fast-paced change are the key skills that are becoming more important for leaders in digital enterprise, the panelists said. Loubaton said her organization was looking for industry disruptors, who understand how to leverage new technology to upend traditional ways of doing business in their field and are not afraid to take that leap. Agile thinkers who are comfortable operating in a fast-paced, high-tech environment are becoming more valuable. Lubrano emphasized the importance of change management skills: creating urgency, maintaining focus, and clearing the path to new ways of working. The accelerating pace of change, Abburi added, means that while strategic planning skills are still fundamental, leaders now have to be able to formulate and execute strategies on a shorter cycle.

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