In 2013 Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne of Oxford University used—what else?—a machine-learning algorithm to assess how easily 702 different kinds of job in America could be automated. They concluded that fully 47% could be done by machines “over the next decade or two”.

Disruptive times call for transformational leadership. Given the demands of today’s changing ecosystem, we outline three important and actionable aspects of transformational leadership that leaders need to be focused on today.

#1: Shift Talent Strategy from Creating Human Capital to Social Capital

Over the past ten years sophisticated organizations have been focused on optimizing human capital strategies to win the war on talent. This includes strategies such as building out comprehensive talent management systems, leadership competency models and designing leadership development programs.

That model worked in a time when major innovations only optimized within the system. In our highly disrupted era where companies are constantly bracing for the next big pivot, a key measurement for an organization’s talent strategy success is no longer “do we have and can we keep the smartest talent” but rather “can our people swiftly adapt to changing environments and enhance its market position”. According to a recent Korn Ferry research, 95 percent of World’s Most Admired Companies (WMAC by Forbes) say this “organizational agility” is a “critical” or “very important” focus area.

In order to create this much desired organizational agility, leaders need to establish an environment where people, connections, ideas, knowledge, information and resources can be opened up to come together and coalesce into exponential synergy. Thus, the focus of talent strategy needs to shift from creating human capital (value created by individual contribution) to creating social capital (value created based on the way an individual is connected to others).

This shift means effective leaders are now the connectors who know how to develop and bring the smartest teams and technologies together to solve the global and complex problems of today.  According to a study by Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends Survey, 48 percent of companies are already experimenting with Organizational Network Analysis (ONA) to understand how to inspire social capital creation from within their talent pool.

Understanding and appreciating social capital creation is key for transformational leaders who have the ambition and desire to win from within.

#2: Create Value Through Accelerating and Optimizing Customer Data Value Exchange

In every sector – from heavy industry to consumer package goods – companies are racing to create more relevant products and services. To do this effectively, this will require data-driven service design, product enhancements and CX innovation. And they will need data. Lots of data. This means taking a deep look at data across their organization including CRM, transactional, behavioral, 3rd party and above all, first party customer data.

The richest data comes directly from customers. But before customers release their deepest, most personal, strategic data, they want real value in return. Or what we call customer value data exchange.

This is the second use case for transformational leaders in the digital world to imagine, design and innovate sources of meaningful value for which customers will gladly exchange the data about themselves that they value most.

This isn’t simply about IOT, embedding sensors in installed hardware or experiences. It’s about the deeply human task of leading agile processes that generate new-to-world services for customers who will in turn pay in data.

Uber, Google, Blue Apron, Cars.com. Customer value data exchange is happening all around us. In our cars and factories. It’s in home delivery and imbedded in network software applications. It’s Amazon Prime and Netflix. And it’s only getting started – the ultimate competition for customers.

Transformational leaders who can combine (for now) human skills – intuition, insight, imagination – with technology and digital depth will build the winning systems of value exchange required by the data-driven marketplace.

#3: Embrace the New and Imperfect Heroism

The social and cultural movements in our society has always been culminated in what we think of as an “hero”. Thanks to the digital revolution, the technology and AI algorithms free humans up to focus on the top of Maslov’s hierarchy of needs – true leaders are now helping organizations find, set, and realize their purposes, uniting and rallying humans around the purposes, and helping other humans find theirs. Simultaneously, the ultra- muscled, perfection stereotype of pre-digital revolutionary era heroes admired by our culture (think Superman, Captain America) has shifted to a much more diverse pool of heroic characters, such as Tyrion Lannister (sinned yet agile, approachable, collaborative), Peter Quill (mischievous, flawed, boyish and warm), and Lady Gaga (radically attention grabbing, anti-bully, bold).

The new hero stereotypes we’ve come to admire are ultra-authentic, rugged, resourceful, relatable and somewhat messy.  They are all “work in progress” and “becoming” in their own ways. The new heroism screams imperfection, and thus, humanity. After all, to be human is to be WIP and imperfect and digital disruption has given leaders a challenge and opportunity to go back to humanity and connect as humans. The stuff that compels us to empathize, harmonize (not “compromise”), seek and evolve.

The most successful transformational leaders will be those who recognize, admit and embrace their own humanly imperfections, and thus uniting their teams around their shared human-ness – and no bot or algorithm can replace that.

Final Thoughts

When the hype calms and dust settles, we will stop overusing the word “digital” and focus purely instead on the new expectations set, new values created, and new human dynamics that the new age requires transformational leaders need to be readied for that future that is already here.

Learn more about this new age and how to be ready through strategic digital transformation.

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