How to Become a Digital Leader

The invention of and subsequent advent of the world wide web in the early 1990s has led us into a new kind of business landscape where virtually everything is online. Indeed, the fact that you’re reading this article here right now is evidence of the ubiquity of online information proliferation. It’s natural to assume, then, that companies would strive to be at the head of the pack when it comes to digital innovation and growth. Thus, we reach our primary question.

Do you want your company to be faster, more innovative with better digital technology?

Of course you do! Most companies reported in January of 2017 that they expect to become more digital in the coming year. 54 percent of those desire to increase efficiency and 35 percent desire to cut costs [1]. Digital technologies have the potential to transform the way you do business. Most companies don’t take advantage of this, but we designed this article to show you how. Over the course of reading this, you should learn all about what a digital leader is, what differentiates digital leaders from one another, keys to entering the digital space, and opportunities for digital investment.

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What is a Digital Leader?

A Digital Leader is considered to be an organization that is entirely digital across major functions [2]. Typically these leaders view IT as more important for their strategic goals than their competitors. They tend to be globally integrated and more effective at sharing information [2]. The end result of being a digital leader is all about becoming united and how you make your team feel. When your team feels empowered, you can achieve more things. Now more than ever it is possible to become united through digital channels. Leaders today take advantage of technology like digital, mobile and social tools in order to be the most effective and inspire their teams.

Differences in Digital Leaders

Your digital strategy will depend on what type of company you operate and where it is located. Information Technology is drastically different around the world and it is more important to certain cultures than it is to others. Research shows that CEOs in North America tend to drive IT as a major part of their company’s strategy whereas other regions’ CEOs tend to give IT lower priority [2]. In Europe and the Middle East, for instance, information technology is seen as an enhancement to their strategy in order to improve efficiency, not the centerpiece to their business [2]. Some areas of the globe care more about certain digital channels than others, as well. A prime example of this is that companies in Australia, China, India and Singapore really care about mobile technology to fuel business growth [2]. It all depends on what makes sense for your company at a given point in its development.

Three Keys to Entering the Digital Space

  1. Listening - In the past, leaders had to rely on employees and researchers to find out what’s going on. Now within the digital space, there are all kinds of direct information at hand whenever you need it. It is important to listen to this information and find out what is truly happening. Although it is tempting to simply listen to what catches your ear, this isn’t enough. By listening to all different voices in the channel you’re in, you can understand the big picture [3].

    If you don’t know where to start listening on social media, look for the experts. Follow those with the most knowledge in your field and also follow the people they are following. This will make your life easier, because they are doing the work for you. You don’t have to go and search for the news all day long, because someone more experienced is laying it out for you. If social media isn’t your thing, consider looking into news websites like the Wall Street Journal or an outlet specific to your industry such as Women’s Wear Daily. Try developing a daily routine of skimming this site in order to get a glimpse of the big picture in your industry. This is a great way to take advantage of all the information available out there.
  2. Sharing - Sharing has become very informal in the digital age. To be a successful digital leader you must be able to share in an unstructured, informal, yet conscious way. When you share information with someone, you are expressing what is important to you. It can become the foundation of a relationship since you are trusting that this person might find your knowledge/perspective interesting. The information you are sharing should use an authentic point of view worth spreading. If you filter what you say too much, you can lose the emotional and unique outlook people are looking for. You want whatever you’re sharing to be seen and heard by as many people possible. Remember that you are working for the people you are leading. What do you think will help them reach their highest potential?
  3. Engaging - This concept goes hand in hand with the importance of sharing. Being a digital leader is all about sharing content that engages your reader [1]. Share stories that the audience should hear to improve as a team and align your goals with theirs. The way you share will depend on what type of relationship you are aiming for. Should your follower be listening to every detail you share to understand the concept? Or do you want to create a more relaxed atmosphere that inspires collaboration? If you have a specific goal to reach, then the detailed approach will probably be more successful. If you are looking for ideas and want the problem to find it’s own course, then take it more freely.

Investment Opportunities

Investment in digital tools is an important step to becoming a digital leader. It can help spread information to anyone who wants it at any moment. In the next three years, companies expect to invest more in cloud and mobile technologies [1]. Collaboration software, cybersecurity tools and cloud-based application services are emerging. On these platforms, big decisions can be made very easily and risk can be effectively managed [1]. We suggest doing research on these tools and decide what is best for your business to take advantage of.


In order to be a digital leader, you must think like one. You must be visible, be heard and be known. It takes visionary thinking to move past the glitzy tools and find the most successful course for your business [3]. If you are taking the engagement approach freely, as mentioned earlier, you must start conversations to achieve the end goal. You need to compile all the information given to you and extract the most important pieces. Try to capitalize on new opportunities and use digital technologies to bring a fresh perspective to your customer.


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