Are we succeeding in leading digitally or in digital leadership? How to tell…

In an earlier post, we considered how leading digitally differs conceptually  from digital leadership within an organisation. Needless to say, both concepts are necessary to fully navigate the complex challenges organisations face in our increasingly digital world. One important question that has emerged from that post is, how do we know we are succeeding in our use of technology and in our engagement with technology in leadership practice? Here I offer some suggestions, but must warn that how we define success and its evil twin, failure, is as much an elusive undertaking as the concept of leadership itself.

white and gray bird on the bag of brown and black pig swimming on the beach during daytime
What form might the elusive Proteus take next?

According to legend, Proteus was a sea-god who constantly changed his form in order to avoid being captured. He had powers of premonition but would only reveal those secrets to whoever was able to capture him. The identification of success or failure within the digital space is protean in nature and can be as elusive as the sea-god himself.  Nonetheless, one framework that can help us think of how we capture the success of leading digitally or digital leadership is what I call the PEM Framework – Process, Expectations, and Metrics.

PEM frameworkPEM Framework for measuring success in digital leadership/leading digitally.

Process Success involves evaluating how leadership practices deployed during the implementation stages align with or change predetermined strategies due to the uniqueness of the technology. In other words, one technology may evoke practices that differ from another technology; evaluating process success thus provides managers with ready-made initial data for analysis.

We need an overview of our success

However, this measure, although a good starting point does not offer the full picture of success if all we do is focus on the process and not also the outcomes. This is where Metrics Success comes into play. Here, we deploy metrics that measure the outcomes that have emerged as a result of our engagement with technology. With these metrics (which we shall discuss in a future post), return on engagement (ROE) is as important as return on investment (ROI). Whereas the former is qualitatively measured, the latter offers some quantifiable outcomes and both must inform leadership practice.

But even Metrics Success alone can be dampened if general expectations within or outside the organisation of a ‘new kind of leadership’ are not met. This is where Expectations Success ties it all together and therefore seated at the base of the PEM Framework. Here, the (dis)confirmation of expectations about what leadership practice should look like in the digital space either presents the organisation with success or failure; this is even if Metrics and Process do not indicate success or failure. The implication is that organisations that fail to deliver on Expectations Success will ultimately fail to boast about any success at all in leading digitally or in digital leadership.

Stay tuned to HCL Voices for more!

by Dr Lebene Soga




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