Recently I've been fortunate enough to have led some digital advisory and consulting, which has been a real eye opener. Not because 'digital' is possibly the most misunderstood and misused word of the last few years, or because there are so many column inches written about it - and the irony of adding to them here certainly isn't lost on me. Rather, it's been an eye opener to see how many leaders are just abdicating their responsibilities.
Roger Daltrey sings "meet the new boss, same as the old boss" in the epic outro of the The Who's 1971 Pete Townsend-penned classic Won't Get Fooled Again - and sadly, too often, the new old boss is exactly who I meet. The same old boss who wears his lack of technology knowledge as a badge of honour. "I don't do technology", "I don't do social media" and maybe sometimes - "I've got an IT guy who does all that - I still print my emails".
Following clear leadership, the most important aspect of the whole "digital journey" - which I will cover in a later post - is what people are now calling "engaged executives". These are the senior leaders in your organisation who genuinely believe that IT matters, and accept that they need to step up and take clear and direct ownership of their firms digital activities.
You see, "digital leadership" is about everyone in the firm. It's not about hiring a CDO - though some companies may need one to act as a catalyst or provocateur. This is about recognising that this "digital journey" is primarily a change of culture and approach across your whole enterprise. It's recognising that technology - which enables and underpins this journey - is now everyone's job and that everyone needs to have the vocabulary of technology.
The time has passed when executives could be proud of their lack of IT knowledge. You'd never hire a CFO who "didn't do maths", and equally you'd never hire any executive sales, marketing, or managing director who didn't do "numbers" - so how can you have people "who don't do technology"?
Not every senior executive needs to be an expert, but get some vocabulary, do some research, get engaged, try, learn, explore, and experience. The digital journey is going to create some new challenges and "not doing technology" will be like driving a Fiesta on the motorway when everyone else is in a Ferrari. In which case, you'd better pull over and get out of the way.