6 traits of successful leaders in the digital business

  • Posted on April 19, 2013

In one of my previous posts, I mentioned the Digital Business and how the really successful organizations are the ones that seem to have “a digital mindset,” an instinct for how to creatively use technology to change their business, rather than just using IT as a minimum standard for how to efficiently run the enterprise. Also, the role of the CIO seems to be evolving into the role of a Chief Digital Officer or CDO. Actually, a recent Gartner report indicated that almost 1 in 5 CIOs has a CDO title today. Hence, the CDO is the leader that drives the harnessing of digital technologies to create new products, services, and customer experiences through digitized and redefined  business models.

But what are the leadership characteristics of a CDO? Reflecting at what I've seen at some of my customers, I have observed some commonalities for the most successful ones:

  1. Intellectual horsepower and curiosity. They think in fresh and different ways with the intent of breaking new ground. They have the ability to share, explain and “sell” their thoughts, processes, ideas and opinions, even outside their own span of control.
  2. They are able to navigate internal and partner organizational landscape, successfully negotiate political scenarios, but are careful not to be overly ambitious or to “pull rank.”
  3. They embrace change and have a strong competitive edge. They enable and encourage innovation from all levels of the organization, including establishing the mechanisms and rewards to facilitate innovation. They make use of this innovation to consistently challenge accepted paradigms and implement new business models.
  4. They recognize that the ability to think “fresh” can come by embracing the diversity which comes with their team’s mix of perspective, working and thinking styles, and background.
  5. Energy, Conviction and Courage. They have an ability to consistently display an infectious positive energy and an optimistic outlook for their business.
  6. They have a burning passion for technology. ‘Nuff said.

Informationweek’s article, Goodbye IT, Hello Digital Business has some nice real-world example of IT leaders which have embraced this change agent-, and external-facing role. When thinking about those who still sit on the sidelines, the words of John D. Rockefeller spring to mind, “Don't be afraid to give up the good to go for the great.”


Digital business is a rapidly transforming and growing field, so it's important to remain on top of your game. I think that these characteristics are ones that any good leader should have. Thanks for sharing!

July 14, 2016

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