Leadership Excellence for the Digital Age: 10 Tips For Turning Possibility Into Reality (Part Two)

This is the second article of a two-part series. Read Part One now.

Tip #6: Ensure Succession Planning and Management is Impartial and Transparent
Demands and criteria for leadership are changing in the digital age—especially with the presence of a multi-generational and diverse workforce increasingly faced with the prospect of becoming redundant/marginalized by AI powered technologies.  Established leadership theories and vibrant management practices of the past are being tested.

Consequently, talent pipelines and succession processes have to be squeaky clean and void of any controversies to dissuade disheartened/disillusioned potential successors from seeking their career advancement elsewhere.  The future of progressive organizations in the Digital age, more than ever, hinges upon corporate leaders assuming the mantle of enlightened statesmanship, rather than, clinging to the prevalent status-quo of regressive politicking.

Tip #7: Cultivate High-Commitment Employees (HICOs) vs High-Potential Employees (HIPOs)
The HIPO approach, an extrinsically-driven assessment, is a more refined form of the dreaded ‘Normal Distribution Curve (Bell Curve)’, conveniently used to weed out the lowest performers within the talent pipelines. It has also been frequently cited for  eroding the morale of diligent employees and incentivizing the “cannibalization” of peer careers to secure sanctuaries within the “safer” zones.

Additionally, the “privileged care” associated with maintaining a healthy number of HIPOs is profoundly taxing on the organizational culture and is widely seen as a latent way to reward conformist behaviours which hinders the healthy dissent required to boost innovation for staying relevant in a Digital world.

It is more prudent to cultivate HICOs (www.peoplematters.in), intrinsically-driven employees, who are inherently engaged and very hard to poach by opportunistic competitors. This leads to a more wholesome, inclusive and risk-mitigated application of a truly effective talent management system for strengthening the functional foundations of a progressive organization against the vagaries of digital disruptions.

Tip #8: Make Mentorship a Mandatory Element of Senior Management’s Performance Appraisal
The significance of having a good mentor cannot be overstated for blossoming talent— it lays the solid groundwork needed for keeping potential successors focused and  moving towards maximizing their value-addition for the organization while carving an admirable career for themselves. However, few organizations invest in formally engaging such relationships and are normally inclined to providing counselling services through the HR function.  This results in the profound loss of a golden opportunity to create strong bonds between the various hierarchical levels; this inevitably manifests in various undesirable ways, e.g., communication gaps, failure of psychological contracts, high attrition rates, poor employer brand, lower morale, unsatisfactory working conditions, stagnated career progression, and under-utilization of talent, etc.

Therefore, it is imperative that senior management should be mobilized for the mentor-mentee network and the level of success in such initiatives be gauged as an essential element of their performance appraisal. This will strengthen the overall talent management system in multiple ways: robust talent pipelines, less need for rigorous training & development, boost to employee engagement, voluntary ambassadors for attracting additional talent, minimal defections to ravenous competitors and an increased level of readiness to embrace leadership challenges.

Tip #9: Convert Employee Engagement From “Aspirational” to “Inspirational”
Most progressive organizations tend to start “requiring” employee engagement, rather than expecting it as a natural offshoot of an enterprising culture based upon robust values.  This has the downside of becoming a job specification which brings “shrewd actors” into play who are enticed by the incentive-driven external motivation of gaining associated rewards and recognition. Consequently, the glamorization of employee engagement often eclipses the voluntary initiatives of the “truly engaged” employees who are driven by the intrinsic motivation of “doing good” as an affirmation of their exemplary professionalism.

Therefore, an inspiration-based approach is generally a more enduring option than an aspiration-based approach for assuring sustainable employee engagement (>www.peoplematters.in). This provides a more refined and durable way of leveraging the synergies between luminous foresight, astute decisiveness, coalescing culture, invigorating work environment, unambiguous empowerment, seamless compliance, timely execution, impartial self-reflection and the undeterred resilience to ensure effective remedial measures.

Tip #10: Befriend ‘Failures’ for Learning and Embrace Successes with Caution
Organizations that have the humility and astuteness to learn from their missteps are the ones with the foresight for maximizing the probability of success.  A few years back, the trusted business model of software licensing was stagnating at Microsoft as Apple and Amazon made significant strides in cloud computing and mobile devices to embrace the emerging trends of the digital age.  However, Microsoft was able to reflect upon the changes that were needed to become relevant again and took the necessary steps, including, bringing in a new CEO with an extensive background in cloud computing.   Now, Microsoft is once again at the vanguard of current and emerging technologies, including strategic investments in AI-enabled products and services.

Profound insights can also be gained from the meteoric ascents and spiralling descents of industry titans who customarily pose as the narcissistic prophets of success, yet become embroiled in nagging controversies and are eventually relegated to the corporate wilderness: Enron, WorldCom, Swissair, Bear Stearns, etc.

The practice of a timely, meticulous and honest introspective organizational review backed by robust corrective/preventive actions has firmly evolved into a survival imperative. In a digital world that does not pay heed to tradition, sheds conventional thinking, seeks seamless gratification, pledges loyalty to technological innovation and punishes complacency with extinction, nothing less will suffice.

Food for Thought
The aforementioned tips have been provided to open an window into the expanse of innovative thinking that abounds in the digital era—and the two core competencies required for organizations/professionals to stay relevant in the digital future:

  • Being comfortable with being uncomfortable (refers to effectively embracing foreseeable changes/unanticipated scenarios/disruptive chaos); and
  • Being uncomfortable with being comfortable (refers to effectively overcoming intoxicating complacency from dominant market positions/stakeholder contentment/goal attainment).

Take a moment to step back from the daily grind and check your comfort level.  Are you ready?

Murad Salman Mirza is an innovative thinker and an astute practitioner of areas within and associated with the fields of Organisational Development, Talent Management and Business Transformation. He has lived, studied and served in different regions of the world, including the US, Australia, South Asia and the Middle East. Murad has more than 15 years of multi-disciplinary experience and has rich exposure to multiple sectors within the corporate world. Currently, he is engaged as a Board Member with two US-based organizations. His LinkedIn profile can be viewed at: Murad Salman Mirza.

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