How leaders can stay relevant

Acquiring new abilities while nurturing timeless skills will help leaders become digital leaders – and stay ahead of the competitive game.

The rules keep changing as digital transformation sweeps through the workplace, affecting almost every industry and sector. The pace of digital disruption is accelerating, and it is impacting leaders.

As the lifespan of skills continues to diminish, it is more important than ever for leaders to be focusing on skills development,” explains Lyndy van den Barselaar, managing director at ManpowerGroup South Africa. A combination of personal traits that remain relevant over time and emerging digital skills can help business leaders become the digital leaders of the future. The good news is experience and soft skills can help leaders to lead their teams through digital transformation.

Here’s how to nurture the right skills to stay current in today’s ever-evolving workplace.

Nurture Timeless Soft Skills

Certain skills never go out of style even as digital changes impact the rest of the workplace. According to the Accenture’s “Inclusion in the Digital Economy” 2018 report, the rapid pace and scale of technological change and global flows of information, among other forces, are disrupting labour markets and fundamentally altering the future of work.

The powerful combination of attributes like brightness, adaptability, endurance and drive set a solid foundation for effective leaders, and are predictive of future success. “The good news is that soft skills can be nurtured, with the right amount of dedication,” adds van den Barselaar.

Develop Learnability and Curiosity

The “Inclusion in the Digital Economy” report also states that in most job ads, the demand for employees who take the initiative to develop their own skills has increased by nearly 300% since 2010. In a world of rapid, frequent disruption new skills emerge as fast as others become obsolete. What you know now is less important than what you can learn.

“Learnability is defined as the desire and ability to grow and adapt to new circumstances and challenges throughout your work life. Today, professional success is determined both by an individual's ability to adapt to change and their willingness to own the progression of their career,” says van den Barselaar. Digital leaders need to be role models by seeking out different experiences, unusual perspectives and by being open to fresh ideas.

Acquire Digital Skills and Expertise

Leaders must have an understanding of the technical skills required to effectively transform their business. They should surround themselves with experts and take time to stay informed of the latest trends, challenges and opportunities facing their organisation – and continue to upskill and learn in this regard.

Don’t Stand Still

Digital transformation is not a one and done – it’s here to stay. Change is dynamic, so agility and continuous adaptation is essential. Feedback is important in identifying the steps leaders should take – be this from management, mentors, coaches or connections. “Seek connections with people that can give you constant, constructive feedback on where you are in your journey and how you can improve,” says van den Barselaar. Throughout your career, plan to innovate, experiment and learn fast.

“Tomorrow’s environment is just beginning, focus on being ready for it,” she concludes.