So will the next breed of leaders be from digital and tech? No. Surprised that I dispute this statement? Well, the statement itself is flawed. While organisations scamper to set up their own digital and technology teams and dedicated departments, these silos will soon disappear. Not because they will cease to exist but because they will become the nerve centre of the organisation and will lead the functions across every business aspect.
The traditional segmenting of teams into manufacturing, finance, marketing et al only fuels the traditional approach that creates stereotypes. And here, some miss the entire direction in which the world is moving. Today, one can’t escape the digital matrix for too long. If you have fathomed this maze, you are its God. And if you are thrown into it, you gasp for survival.
A great leadership demands much more than functional wizardry.
It starts from having a big dream, one that seems scary to many but is important. Then again, the bullish can turn out to be foolish. It takes a deep sense of vision and foresight to dream with purpose. Oh, but the purpose can lose its way if led by the fickle. It needs direction. The path in this direction is strife with surprises, impossibilities and economic vagaries. So the direction now needs a strong and inspiring mind to guide and meander through situations to remain steadfast and determined.
And the crucial enabler that leaders have to weave into the organisational veins is technology. Innovators like Steve Jobs and Elon Musk, on the one hand, constantly endeavoured to change our tomorrows through tech breakthroughs, while Amazon and Google are changing our lives each second. Yet again, Airbnb and Uber started with an idea that challenged all norms in hospitality and travel.
Closer home, visionary organisations like the Mahindras and the Aditya Birlas have seamlessly integrated technology into their DNA only to strengthen their leadership positions further to give wings to their new ambitions. What seems to propel them ahead is the fine balance of the leadership values of integrity, ethics and commitment to purpose and the new values of the spirit of innovation, agility and digital adoption.
Let’s look at the agency world now. Its Darwinian evolution saw the leadership change from Any Glib Talker to The Marketing Savvy to The CFOs to The Creative Gurus to Technology Masters. For today, we need to recognise, and recognise fast, that clients are not building their business block by block, but are seeking strategic and seamless transformation across their entire business landscape. And are looking for each piece to operate in an inter-connected manner within their complex matrix. No doubt this complexity needs a strategic visionary who can blend creative, media and technology and tune a highly innovative and agile ecosystem to power this new ambition. The new leader will need to be the changemaker.
Our world today and even more so tomorrow, will be an unavoidable matrix where every one of us will have to be intensely interconnected and continually evolve. It’s not about being a leader today. It is about being the leaders of tomorrow. A tomorrow that will require leaders to ensure a team that is aligned to the vision and purpose, surrounding themselves with the best talent to drive the change they envision before anyone else. Needed today is a Morpheus to bring out the inner strength and power of Neo to reload a new matrix.
The blinkered lot, led by an old-fangled captain, will sickle cell itself into oblivion. And yet, digital and technology by itself are merely a capability. The ability to build the organisation around it and write the future will be the true test of leadership that will make the leap to an unseen tomorrow, today.
The author is CEO, Razorfish India