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Four Ways To Close The Digital Leadership Gap If you consider yourself a digital leader, you're in luck. It turns out that digital leaders are in high demand.

By Hafiz Muhammad Ali

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

You're reading Entrepreneur Middle East, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.


If you are not sure what a digital leader is (as it is not always clearly defined), think of a CEO willing to ditch the traditional workforce hierarchy, and embrace cloud infrastructure and a virtual workforce instead. Can you imagine that? If you can't, it's because there is a looming digital gap in business that has top CEOs and CFOs on one side of the bridge, with savvy IT teams and digital marketing gurus on the other side. The two camps don't speak the same language. This is where the gap begins to reveal itself.

According to a recent MIT Sloan Management Review study, 90% of executives say that their businesses and organizations are being rattled by rapidly growing digital marketing models, while 70% say they don't have the skills needed to adapt as a digital leader. In order to close the gap, increase revenue, and bring leaders to the place they need to be, C-suite executives will have to transition to the digital leadership model posthaste. If they don't, they risk widening the gap even more, eventually falling off the bridge where their digital counterparts hang on strong and steady.

Here are four ways to close the looming digital leadership gap and create more "digital-ready" leaders:

1. Create small business units The traditional hierarchy in any profitable SME is usually a top-down model, with the CEO being at the top, next-level management below him or her, supervisors next, and then employees. The new model consists of small business units, or teams, spawned in different geographical locations by the CEO. The teams build information systems that support ideas and decisions normally made at the top of the food chain. These independent and highly accountable teams are responsible for hiring within their unit, selling products, and onboarding new customers within their geographical location. All of their activity is managed through mobile apps. This way, supervisors in specific headquarters can monitor the team's hiring habits and customer growth.

2. Embrace cloud infrastructure For many businesses and organizations, the cloud is the silver lining so many have been waiting for. With web development and other SEO-based services moving outside of the traditional hiring process, a digital leader must now become an expert in the areas of networking and security. This doesn't mean he or she has to be a tech expert, but it does mean that there needs to be a clear understanding of how a cloud infrastructure works. Once that understanding is in place, digital leaders can further embrace other technologies that will continue to help advance their company.

3. Create sound workplace culture For leaders unfamiliar with the digital playground, allying with IT professionals in their network in a way that rewards those professionals creates a sound workplace culture from the bottom up, or from one small business unit to the next. It is these digital allies that are, in many ways, the heartbeat of the organization. They create the vision for the company while carving out a roadmap that outlines any future digital capabilities. As leaders grow into understanding the role of digitization, they have got to create a culture that encourages growth and breeds appreciation. The happiest employees are those who feel appreciated. At the same time, leaders need to be cognizant of corporate goals and how his or her job responsibilities support those goals. In today's tech world that includes digital marketing goals.

4. Adapt to new skills Based on what's been covered so far, it is clear that digital leaders need to learn different skills and gain a greater understanding of automated marketing strategies. As it stands, 42% of companies say that leadership development is very important to continued growth. Having said that, only 2% of those companies surveyed incorporated programs for leaders so that they could become educated in the digital sector. That still leaves a large percentage of them standing in the gap, uncertain of which way to turn as more and more Millenials cross the bridge of digital leadership with confidence. After all, this is their era. They woke up with a computer in one hand and a phone in the other.

To conclude, closing the the digital leadership gap requires executives to start looking at leadership as a team effort. The idea of the "head honcho" CEO is fading fast. Just look at companies like Google and Mastercard where leadership is defined as a group, not as one guy sitting behind a big, mahogany desk. Within the walls of these corporations, leaders are willing to work together to create a sound culture with continued learning and innovative growth. You want to close the gap? Step into it. Embrace it. And create a workforce strong enough and more than willing to dive into digital waters together.

Related: Trends, Analysis And Predictions For Digital Media In MENA In 2017

Hafiz Muhammad Ali

Entrepreneur, Author, PhD in Entrepreneurship

Hafiz Muhammad Ali is an entrepreneur, founder of Omnicore, author of Digital Passport. With a PhD in entrepreneurship, his is a firm believer in lifelong learning. He is passionate about sharing his knowledge, experience and opinion on digital marketing, leadership, entrepreneurship and innovation. Ali invests in books and people.


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