How To Be An Effective Leader In A Digital Business

HawkMany businesses have had digital technology for awhile. Most businesses have had most employees working with computers for a good two decades. Some have been working with computers for even longer.

In the last decade the big changed has been mobile devices and especially phones. Now teams can be in communication at all times and really from any location. Sharing data has never been easier.

But while many businesses have digital technology there is still a push for upgrades and improvements. One study found that 62% of businesses are investing in new digital technology.

So the digital trend for businesses is still there.

There are two things that can are in play when we say “digital business”. The first is just the idea of leading a company that is using digital technology. And the second is being the leader of a company that provides some kind of digital service to consumers or to other businesses.

Many leadership traits that have always been important are still important in the Digital Age, but there are a few traits that are unique.

Let’s go over a few of the important things to consider when you’re leading a digital business.

1. Employees Appreciate & Expect Access

There are good reasons to limit access to certain things on the Internet. It is possible for an employee or anyone at a company to go somewhere inadvertently and to leak some kind of critical information.

But there’s a balance of protecting your company and your customers and giving your employees the freedom they expect and appreciate and that they really need to do their jobs and to live their lives.

For example, some companies have limited access to things like Facebook and Twitter over the years. They want their employees focusing on work while at work and not on Facebook.

On the surface that makes sense, but social media and other sites are part of the fabric of life today. It’s how people connect with others. Connection has always been present in business.

Trust that your employees have the self control to do a good job while having freedom of access to various digital technology. If the work slips then it might be time to find a solution, but employees will usually surprise in a good way.

2. Employees Appreciate Fast & Reliable

Technology is changing fast today so it can be difficult for a business to keep up. But it’s still important to make sure that employees have access to fast and reliable technology.

For example, it’s good to have a plan for upgrading employee computers. Usually as long as you’re open about the upgrade schedule with employees and describe your reasoning with them they’ll buy-in.

As long as the expectations are in place you’ll be okay and you’ll avoid any resentment. Employees like the latest cool new toys, but they also don’t want to feel like they could be doing a better job and doing it more efficiently if they had better technology.

3. You Know More About Employees, Colleagues & Partners Than Ever Before

Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media sites have been wonderful for connecting with others. As a business leader you’re more connected with employees, colleagues and partners than ever before. This is a good thing.

For example, you can build relationships with clients and do a better job with the sales process with more information.

But it’s also important to know that your life is more open. People can do a quick search and gather information on you and your personality. That can be totally fine and a good thing, but it could also mean more of a separation from work and personal life with how you use social media and other online profiles.

Approach every message, email, update, etc. as if everything is public.

4. Watch Your Expectations, Unplugging Can Be Positive

It’s easy to think that if you send an employee an email or a text message at 6pm that they should respond that same night. You know they have their phone on them and you know they’re seeing your message so it’s easy to think that they should respond.

That is not totally new in business, but it’s a little over the line in most cases. There has to be separation from work and personal life for most people. It’s health to be able to unplug.

So it’s good to set your expectations correctly with what you expect from your employees. And you can lead by example by unplugging and kind of holding back on your responses a little until working hours.

5. Listen To New Ideas & Trends

Great leaders have always been able to keep and open mind to new things in the world. The moment you get too set in your ways is the moment you setup others to surpass you in business and in life.

There are certainly some aspects of business that don’t really change with technology. Your job as a leader of a digital business is to listen to the new ideas and trends and to parse through the new information with what you already know and figure out the best course of action.

And it’s good for culture in general to accept new ideas from your team. You want them to feel empowered to make the business better.

I always like the idea of Butch Harmon the golf instructor. He likes surrounding himself with younger generations. He’s in his 70s, but he’s still up on all the latest technology, trends and styles. He can mix his knowledge with new knowledge and help some of the best golfers in the world to succeed today.

6. Don’t Be Too Busy To Meet Face-To-Face

There is something that’s almost a disease today and that’s the fact that people like being busy. It’s like a badge of honor to tell others how busy your life is.

But just because you’re doing something doesn’t mean you’re doing something productive.

And even worse is the boss that is too busy to keep meetings. It’s important to check-in with the team and when they request a meeting, or if you setup a meeting, to hold that meeting.

Your team will start to resent you if you start breaking commitments and if you stop making time for them.

It’s a priority. Don’t let yourself get too busy.

7. Improve Your Electronic Communication

Technology has been great, but one of the things that’s required of us today is the skill of communication electronically. That includes email, text and more; even social media updating.

You might not have the best grammar in the world, but it’s important to work on your emailing skills. You want to make sure that what you’re typing is what you want to say and you want to do what you can to make sure the recipient understands it.

We’ve all gotten the email that is one long paragraph with about 400 words. Nobody can read or understand that. You have to break that up, use headings, etc.

8. Keep Excitement & Disappointment On The Level

Finally, it’s good to be able to listen to new ideas from excited employees and being able to make the idea welcomed while still maintaining the proper level of excitement.

A new idea might be great, but it’s rare that a business would jump on the opportunity that moment. Like if an employee comes to you wanting to launch a Facebook page.

Ask questions and once you have a better idea ask them to develop a plan, it doesn’t have to be anything crazy, for how they’ll implement it. And even before that you can refer to your company’s vision and see if the new idea fits.

And the same is true on the flip side. If something doesn’t work and a team member is disappointed it’s good to put it in perspective so they know it’s not likely the end of the world.


It’s a challenge to be a business leader today especially in a business that is a digital business. It takes a good knowledge of technology and of people. There are no rulebooks, but if you follow the advice above and use some of your own intuition you should be in good shape for being a great leader.

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