April 30, 2014 ↘︎

How to be the digital leader everyone is looking for.

When we talk about creating a digital strategy we place a lot of emphasis on the importance of developing a great team of people when you are embarking on the journey, it will be a long and lonely trip if you don’t.
Recently I wrote an article sharing my top tips for developing your digital team. Now I want to talk about what I think makes a great digital leader. I’m also deliberately choosing to use the word leader rather than manager as I think that it’s a critical difference to embrace. Even if you have the title of “digital manager” that doesn’t mean you are exempt from thinking like a leader. This role shouldn’t only be about managing your resources, workflow and budgets but also about transitioning thinking and pushing boundaries.

Top 5 traits of a digital leader:

  1. Have the right mindset.
    I’m going to use the alarmingly obvious Seth Godin to help me explain this one. When I read his book “Linchpin: Are you indispensable?” I had one of those “Aha” moments. It doesn’t matter how senior or seasoned you are, if you are just turning up everyday to do your job you’ll be trapped by your own boundaries.
    Digital is a fast, dynamic and creative industry and our role within the company that we work for is to live by those qualities. Challenge boundaries, you may find they exist simply because people don’t know what else can be done. Never give up being a digital champion.

  2. Actually care.
    If you don’t care about what your company stands for or what it is trying to achieve then chances are you won’t put your heart and soul into how that is interpreted in the digital space either. Be inspired by the brand you represent, the customers who love you or even by how much product you sell, and then apply your digital creativity. As the leader of your digital team you need to care about the bigger picture and have a vision of what digital can achieve, rather than obsess about the colour of the button on the latest display banner. Engage your team in the vision so they share the responsibility with you.

    “Perhaps your challenge isn’t finding a better project or a better boss. Perhaps you need to get in touch with what it means to feel passionate. People with passion look for ways to make things happen.”
    Seth Godin, Linchpin: Are you indispensable?

  3. Believe digital can make it better.
    If you start in your role doubtful that digital will make much difference to your company then you’ll never succeed. Always be thinking of ways that digital can help, support or make things easier for your company and your customers. Think outside the boundaries of what others are expecting that digital should do and challenge them to see things differently.
  4. Be nosey.
    Being nosey is core to being a good planner. Asking questions, thinking about the responses you are given, and searching for the insights. As a digital leader you should try and channel this quality too. Don’t assume everyone knows which conversations digital should be included in. If there are things happening which are critical to your business ask to be included and make sure the digital voice is included and considered.

  5. Infectious enthusiasm.
    I get really excited about stuff and I can’t resist trying to get the rest of the digital balance team to see the same opportunities that I can. I love helping others to consider the bigger picture and to understand how stuff might fit together. It doesn’t always work but the process of involving others and getting them to think and play with ideas is critical to developing passion and enthusiasm.
    Face it, if we don’t really love the concept of what content marketing can do why the heck should anyone else? It’s your responsibility to breed enthusiasm for digital amongst your colleagues.

The role of digital is ever changing and as the lines with other marketing disciplines continue to blur it is crucial that as a digital leader you are able to show others the best way to negotiate these changes. If you don’t push your boundaries beyond being a manager you may find that you and your team get left behind as others start to claim ownership of areas which should have a strong digital influence.

The content and advice contained in this post may be out of date. Last updated on April 30, 2014.
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