Excellent.org explains how leadership has to change in times of digitalization to become a digital leader, the picture shows how someone works on a laptop, the picture shows a network of dots and strokes, which starts from the person and is supposed to represent the digital relationships

Digital Leadership – leadership in times of digitalisation

Due to the Corona crisis, the proportion of people working in the home office has risen rapidly. Although there has been a trend in recent years towards working from any location anyway, nobody expected such a rapid increase without any preparation. Employees of a company are now no longer sitting in the same offices, let alone in the same countries, which presents companies with enormous challenges. In these times, digital leadership is becoming more and more important. So this week we want to explain in more detail what this is all about and how it can help your business now.

What is Digital Leadership?

Companies are changing in the context of digitalization, have to reorient themselves, take trends into account and adapt business models. It is conceivable that the concept of leadership will also have to be rethought and redesigned in this change.

There is hardly a really uniform definition and thus also a concept for its implementation. Instead, the term is circumscribed and given a few values and competences to make it more tangible. Basically, digital leadership is leadership that is linked to the use of new technologies, tools and media. In times of digitalisation, concepts such as co-working, home office and flexible working hours are becoming more and more popular and successful leadership and teamwork must be guaranteed even across this physical distance.

The task of a digital leader is to advance the company in the digital change and to ensure its competitiveness. The individual needs and competencies of employees must also be taken into account in digital leadership so that they can be incorporated into new concepts and techniques.

New challenges in times of digitalization

In addition to working from any location, digitisation brings with it a number of other changes to which employees and managers must adapt. Many processes now run fully automatically without human intervention. While some jobs can be eliminated, completely new jobs can be created elsewhere, others change fundamentally. Often employees have to be retrained and attend continuous further training in order not to fall by the wayside.

Teams also work together virtually with the help of appropriate tools, while structures in companies change and become more flexible. The once hierarchical management is becoming obsolete and employees expect more personal responsibility to be able to contribute creatively.

Because innovation and production cycles are getting shorter and shorter, new smartphones are outdated and obsolete after 2 years at the latest and new models with slightly improved features are conquering the market. Disruptive business models [1] such as electric cars are being built from scratch and large companies are unexpectedly forced to move in order to remain competitive.

What is certain is that digitization is fundamentally changing the world of work and poses an enormous challenge for everyone. Many employees are unsure of how to use technology and digital tools and need instruction. In these uncertain times, everyone needs managers who think in terms of the future and continue to move the company forward.

Excellent.org explains how leadership has to adapt in times of digitalisation, the picture shows several people working together in a kind of co-working space

Required competencies of a Digital Leader

In the face of these enormous changes and challenges, there is a whole range of diverse skills that digital leaders must bring and use.

Openness & Curiosity

One’s own actions should always be questioned and their effects should be taken into account. What can be improved? With which new methods can progress be achieved? A general will to change is essential in times of digital change.

Flexibility & Agility

Change must be responded to as quickly as possible. Only by testing different approaches can a timely change and thus progress be ensured.

Digital expertise

It goes without saying that a corresponding competence in the field of current media and technical innovations must be available. Furthermore, knowledge should be kept up to date through further training and it is imperative that this knowledge is also passed on to the employees. Only in this way can everyone act on the same level and advance the company.

Team spirit

In addition to the necessary digital skills, social skills should not be neglected. The Digital Leader should be able to form competent teams and structure them. Especially when people work in separate locations, functioning groups that complement each other are of enormous importance. In this context, diverse teams with different backgrounds should gain in relevance.

Relationship Intelligence

In addition to the ability to work in a team, a manager should also be empathetic and appreciative of each individual. The interests and needs of the other person are to be taken into account – this way employees feel that they are taken seriously.

Willingness to make decisions

In order to actively promote change and thus act in a future-oriented manner, decisions must ultimately be made. These should always be oriented to the trends that are taking place and be based on data. The rest of the team must be able to understand decisions, which is why it is important to have a cross-company database that can be accessed by anyone with the appropriate authority.

In general, a positive approach to errors should be established in the context of digital change: These are seen as opportunities and offer new possibilities for the entire company. A digital leader should also take on this task himself: Standing by mistakes is human and takes the pressure off the whole team, which promotes a pleasant cooperation. In addition, the leader should lead the way with a vision and inspire his or her team to the idea of the company again and again. Finally, as a digital leader, a certain amount of patience is always required – changes take time.


A lot is changing for everyone in these times. Companies are being restructured, one’s own job is changing and colleagues are sitting many miles away. Even now, a constant exchange of ideas is extremely important. This is the only way to identify the needs and problems of the employees and to adapt the management accordingly. Digitalization, which is being driven forward more and more by the current crisis, requires understanding and cooperation among each other in order to reinvent the concept of leadership and corporate structure and to move forward successfully.


[1] Disruptive business models: Existing traditional business models are replaced and displaced by new innovative ones