4 Vital Characteristics of Successful Digital Leaders. Don’t Have Them? You’ll Fail!

By David Sauter, CEO

Published: February 26, 2016

“In boardrooms around the world “digital” is on everyone’s lips.” But while the questions that fly around – ‘What’s our digital strategy?’ ‘Why aren’t we mobile?’ ‘How is social media impacting sales?’ – are all too common, the right answers in response are few and far between. True, and effective, digital leadership requires a unique mindset.

Through viewing it first hand in taking an outside-in look at our clients, we’ve solidified a handful of vital characteristics found in successful digital leaders. As for those who don’t bear these traits? They often fail.


1. A willingness, no desire, to experiment.

A good digital leader provides vision, while empowering others. A good digital leader relies on data, yet trusts intuition. These are digital mindsets that inherently inspire innovation and foster a culture that values experimentation. For those leaders that think experimentation is risky or the trial too large, you can kiss industry leadership goodbye. But for those who desire the opportunity to try something new, a world of possibilities emerges, which brings us to our next point.

Iterative_Mentality2. An iterative mentality and the realization that digital transformation is as much about process simplification as it is about grand visions.

Innovation and experimentation don’t require throwing all of your cards in at once. Rather, digital leaders often succeed because of their iterative mentality, while those stuck on that of ‘all or nothing’ never get anything off the ground. Think of it in terms of a website redesign. Leaders with an ‘old way of thinking’ buy into the myth that you must redo everything at once, completely overhauling a site and flipping a switch to a brand new one. The problem? These days many large corporations have massive websites catering to a variety of different industries or customer sets. If you focus on getting the entire site done before flipping the switch, it’ll never happen. Approach things incrementally and things get done faster, with greater impact.

customer_expectations3. An obsession with the customer.

An article by McKinsey & Company echoes our thoughts completely. “Rising customer expectations continue to push businesses to improve the customer experience across all channels. Excellence in one channel is no longer sufficient; customers expect the same frictionless experience in a retail store as they do when shopping online, and vice versa. Moreover, they are less accepting of bad experiences; one survey found that 89 percent of consumers began doing business with a competitor following a poor customer experience. On the flip side, 86 percent said they were willing to pay more for a better customer experience. A healthy obsession with improving the customer experience is the foundation of any digital transformation.”

clear_focus4. A clear focus on digital as a strategy, not a tactic.

Often, we use the terms strategy and tactics interchangeably and in a haphazard manner. Make note: the two are not remotely the same, yet they must work in tandem to achieve business success. If you have strategy without tactics you have big thinkers and no action. If you have tactics without strategy, you have disorder. For many businesses, it’s easy to throw time and effort at the tactics, but unless they succinctly align with an overarching and long-term strategy, the results are more often than not, costly, time consuming, and with no real value to the business or the customer. Successful digital leaders recognize this and structure a solid foundation built on strategy that allows for successful execution in the long run.

Four traits that are critical for success and almost impossible to learn.

Do you have them? Or do you need someone who does to support you? Fill out our contact form and let’s chat!