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4 strategies for leading amidst digital disruption


Digital disruption is fueled by digitization of products, processes and business models. It drives an ever increasing pace and unpredictability of change in almost every sector of our lives. By its very nature this is uncomfortable and unsettling. In many ways it can be likened to a boat out at sea in a violent storm, being tossed about by the waves and wind. What’s a leader to do?

These 4 strategies for leading amidst digital disruption will increase your odds of success.


1. The vital few over the trivial many When your boat is being tossed about by the wind and waves, it is key to be absolutely clear on what is essential. While washing the windows is good to do, nobody wants to waste time on this at sea in a storm when the focus definitely needs to be elsewhere. The very lives of everyone onboard may depend on it. As the pace and unpredictability of change in society and our organizations continues to increase we must likewise have clarity on what is essential. The very lives of communities and organizations depend on it as examples of traditional players left by the wayside clearly illustrate (e.g. Blockbuster, taxi companies, Kodak, etc.).


2. Clarity over certainty At sea in a violent storm the overarching objectives are clear – keep the boat afloat, reach a safe harbor, etc. The individual steps, outcomes are far from certain in these conditions. Likewise amidst digital disruption organizations must accept uncertainty in exchange for clarity. Clarity on purpose and vision and what is really important will guide us. These key elements do not constantly change, they are far more stable than the individual details, allowing consistent progress in the chosen direction. They act like a lighthouse, constantly showing the way.


3. Alignment over compliance Clarity on purpose, vision and what is essential is critical but not sufficient by itself. If the crew on the boat does not understand these key elements or does not buy in, they will not fare well in the storms they encounter. The captain must communicate these and assure understanding and acceptance. Likewise leaders need to communicate and achieve alignment across the entire organization. This will keep everyone focused, lighting the way toward the desired destination.


4. Empowerment over control Just imagine the captain of the boat in a storm giving explicit directions on everything the crew needs to do. Truly a recipe for disaster! Instead he needs to rely on the crew having clarity, and being appropriately skilled to accomplish the tasks. Today’s pace of change necessitates that leaders likewise empower their employees. This will only be effective if clarity has truly been achieved (see strategies 1 – 3) to light the way for employees towards the right destination, allowing them the freedom to make the day-to-day, minute-to-minute decisions that are required.


While these 4 strategies are not a panacea, nor are they exhaustively covered here, applying these will go a long way towards effective leadership, especially amidst digital disruption.

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