Top 5 Key traits Digital Leadership should have

In our Digital Business (DB) series journey so far, we

This 7th part of the Digital Business series identifies the top 5 key traits Digital Leadership should have to drive Digital Business success.

The need for speed

Your business is looking towards the leadership team to know which levers to pull to maximise economic benefit from digital investments. McKinsey research indicates that companies of all sizes are investing in improving their digital capabilities to better steer their organisation across several key activities and processes:

The need for speed

These activities help

  • keep track of the organisation's velocity and overall direction.
  • track the pulse of the customer base.
  • swiftly identify what is working and what can work better.

The more frequently you hold these rituals, the faster you adjust and make meaningful, informed decisions. Digital Leadership must embody and enable such desired behaviours "out of the box".

"You can't quicken the pace of an organisation by fiat. You have to build it by accelerating the frequency of manageable practices that are integral to achieving key goals, such as serving the customer or driving internal efficiency."

Imagine being able to apply continuous analysis across all of the operational and delivery facets of the business, having access to on-demand KPIs and information aggregated and summarised based on the regular day-to-day behaviours of your employee and partner base.

These include marrying data across:

  • Expenses
  • Revenue
  • Sales cycles
  • Customer concentration & demographics
  • Partnership performance
  • Business results (sales by revenue, transaction count, indicative KPIs such as LTV/CAC)
  • Pace of innovation needed to stay relevant
  • Security
  • Talent management
  • Go-to-market
  • Analysis and comparison (e.g. Actual growth v.s. Market growth)
  • etc.

With such abilities, you open yourself up to several modernised capabilities, including the run-time comparison of progress to objectives and market data points.

Following businesses across several industries, we can also observe their priority investment areas:

Areas of investment

Traditional Leadership v.s. Digital Leadership mindset

Businesses have a critical need for a new kind of leader that complements existing capabilities. Someone that can

  • Stay up to date with current trends.
  • Build and manage business or investment cases.
  • Embrace business relationships.
  • Influence and drive change from the front.
  • Understand, navigate, and manage the life cycles of digital solutions.
  • Drive a Digital Transformation Journey across stakeholders.

Digital leaders must

  • Evolve from a 'knowing' leader to a 'learning' leader.
  • Be comfortable in managing modern demands spanning mobile, cloud, data and analytics.
  • Support existing leaders discover and extract new value from their operational area using innovative approaches.
  • Accelerate the adoption of technology to expertly support remote work, customer engagement, and digital products by several years.
  • Expertly navigate next-generation platforms and business models.

The role is also there as a line of defence to help the business steer away from:

  • Unrealistic expectations.
  • Overcommitting in the face of Insufficient resources.
  • Creating divisions, siloes and rivalries.
  • Failing to embrace a digital reality.

Top 5 key qualities for Digital Leadership

Russel Reynolds identifies the 5 key qualities that Digital Leadership should possess as follows:

Top 5 Key qualities for digital leadership

Key capabilities expanded

What this means for you

Senior leaders take time to tune up their understanding of the digital tools and practices their businesses need to stay ahead.

There is just so much more to becoming a Digital Business beyond developing a software and data solution that can address a pain point. Expressing it in terms of a journey is correct. A journey powered by several missions; with each mission delivering incremental capabilities that advance the business purpose slowly but surely.

An entire ecosystem needs to wrap this way of thinking and to advance its capabilities across the key moments of value creation as deliverables are:

  • Conceptualised
  • Created
  • Shipped
  • Consumed (found, accessed, used and licensed)
  • Supported

High-frequency methods resulting from the development, shipping, and maintaining of new customer value learned from global tech businesses are seeping at an accelerated pace across all markets.

This includes industrial operations (Industry 4.0), entertainment, journalism, postal & logistics, finance, education etc., many of which may not yet be renowned for their technical endowment. We will be discussing this agile approach to delivery in our next post.

What can you do to get the ball rolling?

McKinsey research presents a set of low-risk, low-investment, and high-yield practices that can swiftly return value across stakeholders:

  • Learn, engage and share customer aggregate data looking for new ways of understanding, serving and delighting customers.
  • Where you analyse data quarterly, increase it to monthly.
  • Where you analyse data monthly, increase it to daily.
  • Build customer-centric understanding to achieve greater confidence in your decisions and how they impact your customer base.
  • Share insights on what is working and what is not.
  • Adapt and react in an agile fashion.

Digital Leadership does not replace the Traditional Domain Expert Talent needed to operate your business effectively. Digital leadership compliments and enables your Domain Leadership teams to identify new ways of extracting and shipping value, discovering new ways of working and making a difference to your organisation and your customers.

Wrapping Up

Summarising our progress, in our Digital Business (DB) series journey so far, we

Explore the rest of the "Digital Business" series:

# Topic Link
DB-01 Unpack what it takes to be a Digital Business Open
DB-02 Is being a Digital Business for you? Open
DB-03 Putting digital landscapes into perspective Open
DB-04 Set your Digital Business north star Open
DB-05 Changing the business while running the business Open
DB-06 Understanding the Digital Business Mindset Open
DB-07 Top 5 Key traits Digital Leadership should have (This Post)
DB-08 Unlocking Digital Business Agility Open
DB-O9 Top 8 capabilities you need to be a Digital Business Open


  • There is no one-size-fits-all solution for companies to become Digital Businesses.
  • It is only in uniting people, products & processes through a common vision, a deeply felt purpose, and a broadly shared dream that will continue to motivate stakeholders to push on and persevere.
  • Many paths can lead to your desired destination. Each route while equally viable have varying degrees of complexity, sophistication and completeness.

My purpose in the series is to share lessons learned in building global software businesses to help you achieve a Digital Business with assets people want to buy.

Let me know what you think about this series and whether you feel something important was left out. Reach out on andre@andremuscat.com.

Let us know what you think!. We believe in productive discourse and welcome opportunities to refine our understanding through discussion. Comment in the comments area below or reach out on hi@andremuscat.com


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