What Makes a Great Leader in the Digital Era?

firoz patelWhat makes a great leader? This question has been both asked and answered time and time again. However, perhaps the more relevant question now is, what makes a good leader, today? Of course the recommended character traits and suggested identifiers of great leadership vary by context. However, when looking specifically at the changing landscape of the technology sector, certain qualities tend to be encouraged. Below are the top qualities that make for an excellent leader in today’s digital landscape:

  1. Vision: A leader must have vision, otherwise there is no innovation or true direction.
  2. Self-Awareness: Being clear about one’s strengths and weaknesses, means that a true leader can compensate for his or her weaknesses by hiring others that are better equipped in those areas.
  3. Results-Driven: Although one can implement various metrics for success, focusing on quantifiable results and more specifically how to translate successes into quantifiable results is critical. Start-up and tech cultures at large are known to be constantly in flux – particularly in the beginning. This means that traditional markers of “success” may not indicate the true progress and wins of the organization. Therefore a true leader must be capable of finding the appropriate metrics for this environment.
  4. Life-long learners: There is an insatiable curiosity that comes from those who are constantly learning and see the value in this sort of growth. This quality is critical for those who want to be truly innovative.
  5. Create a Safe-to-fail environment : Creating this kind of environment encourages imagination,  problem-solving, creativity and gives employees a vote of confidence. By allowing employees the space to fail you are effectively creating a place for them to learn, to improve and to take risks. All of these things are what lead to eventual successes.
  6. Encourage a collaborative environment: Similar to the thought process behind creating a space that is safe to fail, by nurturing a collaborative environment, you are pooling together resources that together have the potential to be greater than the sum of their parts. Encouraging a collaborative as opposed to strictly competitive environment is beneficial when problem-solving. This point of collaboration is also important when considering the kinds of people that you want working for your company. Do they have the capacity to work well with others? Are they different enough from each other to have varying perspectives and opinions, but still capable of creating a pleasant and engaging working environment? These are all standards set by leaders.
  7. Problem-solver : In addition to having a vision, a great leader needs superior problem solving skills. Having a vision means little if you have no concrete steps for getting there. A leader who can easily try on different approaches to solving problems is well-equipped to face the challenges en route to attaining the vision.
  8. Great Communication Skills: While this may seem like a fairly obvious skill for anyone who is a great leader, it can be a pitfall for those that don’t naturally possess an ability to communicate. Within the context of an organization or group setting, a leader needs to be able to express things so that others understand the mission, their role and how things work. This means speaking clearly with confidence and purpose.
  9. Passion: A true leader needs to have passion as a driving force behind his or her work. It’s obvious when this is lacking. And how can a leader inspire others if he or she isn’t fully committed to the cause?
  10. Mentorship: As an established leader, mentorship is a great way to pay your own success forward. Sharing what you’ve learned and offering advice to up and comers is beneficial for all-involved. Most successful leaders point to specific people in their lives who helped shape them in some way when they were just starting out. As an inspiring leader, seek out someone who is more experienced in your field that you respect and connect with, and as an established leader, offer your insight to someone that you believe in.

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