August 29, 2019

How to be a Successful Leader in a Digital Age?

With the rise in digitalisation, technology has become part and parcel of today’s business and workplaces. Technology is not only changing the way we work and consume information but also how we lead people and manage the organisation.

Although some leadership skills remain as crucial as they used to be in the past, there are many new requirements that leaders need to fulfil to meet the challenges of the new ways of working.

For instance, decision making or problem-solving has always been a prerequisite for leaders, and it still does apply in most circumstances. However, certain skills might not have been as important in the past as it has become now in the digital age.

If we consider most of the successful leaders today and draw lessons from their leadership and management style, there are three patterns we can observe:

First, they never stop learning.

According to a survey of 3100 executives around the world conducted by Oxford Economics on behalf of the SAP Centre for Business Insight, 96% said digital transformation is their primary business goal, and 56% have seen their organizational structure change as a result of digital transformation.

Companies around the world are experimenting and innovating with new ideas and methods every day trying to disrupt your industry at any time. Therefore, leaders need to consistently learn new skills and experiment with new tools to meet the needs of the constantly evolving market.

To adapt to the change in working styles, our ways of learning need to change as well. One of the biggest assets for leaders is the ability to unlearn old methodologies that have become irrelevant and unproductive and incorporate new practices in their management and leadership styles.

One way of becoming more open and receptive to lifelong learning is to consider yourself as a work in progress at every stage of life. You need to be willing to add or adjust parts of your ideas and beliefs as per the requirements of the day.

A good place to start is by listening. In the journey of lifelong learning, listening to your employees and customers is one of the best practices you can start today.

Second, they Build Trust.

According to a survey by PwC, 58% of CEOs have raised their concern that a lack of trust within the organisation is hindering their business growth. The survey also indicated that 69% of CEOs find it more difficult to learn and hold on to people’s trust in the digital age.

Trust is one of the most important aspects of business and leadership, but it is most often understated. Most of the time, we hear about the need for technology and skills like intelligence, agility, and vision, but we don’t hear leaders sharing the importance of trust as much as we hear about other topics for success.

Trust cannot be built overnight. You cannot earn the trust of your employees or customers by one great offer or providing excellent service for one day. You can earn trust only by doing the right thing over and over again until you’ve convinced the other person that all the good things you do externally come from the core values that you believe in internally.

Third, they Value Human Touch.

One of the most essential requirements of the digital age is understanding how humans and technology work together. The problem with digital transformation today is that many organisations begin with technology, rather than people. The primary purpose of technology is to make lives easier for humans, both workers, and consumers.

One way of maintaining human touch is through communication. Preferably, communication that is based on empathy and emotional intelligence rather than business logic or statistics. Good communication skills will make you more accessible and approachable to your employees and customers. It will open doors for your team to clear their doubts and share their sincere concerns with you.

Technology is good with repetitive and bulk tasks, as it reduces time and resource utilization. However, when it comes to leadership and management, humans need empathy. This is something technology cannot do for you.

So, one way to have a competitive advantage in this digital race is to put the human experience at the core of your business, with your employees and customers.


Arinya Talerngsri is Chief Capability Officer and Managing Director at SEAC (formerly APMGroup) Southeast Asia’s Lifelong Learning Center. She can be reached by email at or Experience our lifelong learning ecosystem today at