Modern Leadership Styles Reshaping the Digital Economy

The digital revolution is causing an enormous change in reshaping leadership styles. These changes include swift and far-reaching technological changes, a shift from physical attributes towards knowledge, more dispersed and less hierarchical forms of organization and globalization that supports the spread of information.

Even though traditional leaders have a lot of experience, the current digital world requires leaders to contribute towards a knowledge society and to their knowledge of technology as they keep up with the ongoing global revolution. Therefore, they must understand technology not only as an enabler but also as a revolutionary force. Today’s digital leader needs to be able to identify technological trends, but they must also initially possess sufficient knowledge and the vision to use these technological resources effectively. Therefore, a digital leader should be able to build employee capabilities, mobilize the company, align the entire leadership, and ultimately ensure sustainability (Kohnke, 2017).

Today’s leader is not afraid to try new things or to take risks. However, he must know his limits and learn how to acquire missing knowledge. In so doing, he becomes more like a community manager rather than an authoritarian leader who makes employees defensive. A hierarchical leadership structure cannot work in today’s world because it is slow and bureaucratic whereas the new world is constantly changing and requires swift responses. Therefore, recognizing that employees play a critical role in decision making will allow the leaders to motivate a spirit of innovation in the employees. This is necessary for the digital era, so leaders should acknowledge that swift workplace communication and collaboration play a decisive role in business success. 

The modern leader understands that technology is merely a tool that can be used to transform the customer experience, enhance operational processes, and change the organization’s business model (Westerman et al., 2014). Due to this, the leader is courageous enough to try new ideas that will change the world and also change how other companies operate. An example is Elon Musk, whose ideas on renewable energy, the Hyperloop, the use of electric cars, and colonizing Mars have all altered the way other players in the respective industries now operate (Wall, 2013). For instance, he has made vehicle consumers and manufacturers alike to view electric cars in a new light. Therefore, Musk demonstrates that leaders who will change the coming years initially know the problem they will solve and then find the strategies to solve these problems. In addition, they demonstrate that solving the problem is their passion, and this gives them a purpose to work towards and ultimately elevates them way above the average leader. 

It is important to note here that the modern leader does not depend on technology, but rather uses technology as a tool to fulfil his purpose. The leader instead has principles that govern his actions in spite of any challenges he faces, and he believes in the impossible. Therefore to the digital leader, technology is merely a tool that he can use to execute his ideas in a different way using a different mindset from the traditional leader. The modern leader will analyze the problem that needs solving and then look for the tools he will use to solve the problem. This means that he starts out with a problem and then goes back to technology and applies it in order to ensure business growth and increased revenues. In this case, the important thing for the modern leader is not technology but how this technology is applied to the bigger picture. 

A modern leader looks for objective ways to make decisions. For instance, Jeff Bezos runs Amazon with 14 defined leadership principles, and none of these principles has anything to do with technology (Bharti, 2015). The principles demonstrate the need for building a strong entrepreneurial and highly execution-based organizational culture. All Amazon employees are expected to follow these principles in order to create value for customers. Therefore, the modern leader wants his employees to apply critical thinking skills, objectivity and accountability in all their actions. Creating a customer-centric culture and being confident are therefore important for today’s leader, otherwise, the business will not survive in the dynamic digital environment. 

The coming years will, therefore, be defined by how leaders reinvent their previous experiences so as to add value to their companies in the digital era. This requires the leaders to understand their core assets and how these can be transformed to create new value. The leaders must ultimately understand the core factors related to innovation such as context, culture, capability and cooperation that can be used to change the way in which both the leadership and employees think as they seek business success in the digital age. In the end, these factors will enable the organization to obtain various strategic options that can be used to achieve organizational growth. 


Bharti, R. (2015, January 9). “Learn from Amazon’s leadership principles.” Retrieved from

Kohnke, O. (2017). It’s not just about technology: The people side of digitization. In Shaping the Digital Enterprise (pp. 69-91). Springer, Cham.

Wall, M. (2013, August 14). “6 ways entrepreneur Elon Musk is changing the world.” Retrieved from

Westerman, G., Bonnet, D., & McAfee, A. (2014). Leading digital: Turning technology into business transformation. Harvard Business Press.

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Modern Leadership Styles Reshaping the Digital Economy

Scott Bales is a global futurist, innovation & digital strategist, serial entrepreneur, keynote speaker at TEDx and a best-selling author.

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