Online social networks operate in similar ways to our real-world ones, in that they are held together by trust and influence that isn’t evenly distributed. The web has given a platform to leaders to get into direct contact with their followers and stakeholder communities. As an example, consider Helen Zille’s statement regarding her recent spat with a senior journalist that “today I can reach, in a single tweet, more than double the weekly circulation of her newspaper”.
However, the transition hasn’t been smooth for leaders who have struggled to grasp the medium - whether because of their own gaffes or because of their struggle for relevance. Similarly, the web has given a new kind of leadership the opportunity to emerge. Consider Khaya Dlanga’s reach and influence as a result of his hugely engaging online personality and opinion pieces.
Digital Leadership is the emerging field that looks at how groups come together online and how they are influenced to act. It looks at the culture of online communities and how information and ideas spread from person to person. It is about refining your ability to think, decide, act and communicate more quickly in response to today's real-time market pace.
Our communications are increasingly handled digitally - be it mobile phone calls and texts, or emails and instant messages. Digital Leadership considers also the kinds of interactions that different digital channels encourage, be it blogging and podcasting, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, WhatsApp, or even secure corporate intranets and email.
Digital Leaders should consider how digital technologies impact on what they’d consider their “real world culture”, as the boundaries are increasingly blurred. And culture is what enables the performance of many of the best companies, teams and countries.
Digital Leadership is, I believe, the most important new form of management and business development that is needed on the continent. It is the ability to work with remote teams using modern technologies to get things done. It is about being able to innovate in response to challenges and opportunities using digital technologies that are incredibly quick to build, launch and scale. Ultimately, it is about aligning leadership to the speed, scale and sophistication of business today.