How to be a leader in the digital age

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By CEBIT Australia chairperson Stephen Scheeler, ex Managing Director ANZ, Facebook and Founder, Digital CEO

It’s always been a challenge to be an effective, progressive leader, however in the coming years, leading with purpose in the rapidly changing digital age will be even more paramount. As the World Economic Forum rightfully asserts, “You either disrupt or are disrupted.”


Staying ahead of the curve has become a matter of urgency for all businesses because, quite simply, the curve is moving faster than ever. The old strategic patterns of business which included planning, five-year-cycles and long-term analysis haven’t completely gone away, but leaders need to be continually adapting and monitoring based on changing environments, markets, products and consumer behaviour, and not set things in stone.

Technology is such a powerful, accelerating force unto itself, that in the past five years alone the pace of business has well exceeded the pace of the previous five years and shows no signs of slowing down.

In short, the leaders of today need to:

Have the knowledge and vision to identify and keep up with technological trends

Having the ability to identify technological trends across different sectors, such as robotics, big data, automation and cloud computing is a must for leaders. However, they also need to understand the concepts and develop a vision as to how these advances will effect positive change for their particular business. Importantly, they also need to be aware of how such technology will impact their competitive space.

Keeping up with ideas and what others are doing is one of the biggest challenges leaders face today. At every CEBIT Australia event we always strive to bring together the best and latest thinking around technology from the world’s leading tech leaders, in order to arm participants with essential knowledge. It is a place to come and more deeply understand the speed at which the world is moving, which is something all leaders need to feel comfortable with.

Be fearless in implementing change

A willingness to acquire missing knowledge and an ability to be brave are necessary skills for any leader of the future. Being willing to embrace change understandably isn’t always easy. Change is something that is difficult and brings up anxieties and fear. However, in a digitally disruptive world, change is going to become the default not the exception. Leaders need to get a handle on any fear that underpins change or risk being left behind. To be an effective leader you need to find ways of building fearlessness into decision making.

Embrace all things digital but don’t get overloaded

There’s no doubt if you embrace digital technology in a positive way, whether it’s connecting through social media tools, automating old fashioned methods or just understanding how your child’s iPad works, you will find it generally easier to understand and adapt to the digital world in general. However, it’s also important not to completely become overwhelmed by it to avoid overload and tech fatigue. Remember that anything you learn has to have some kind of purpose and retention behind it.

Be open to the ideas of others

Some of the best ideas come about as a result of leaders being willing to listen to the thoughts of other employees around them. Whilst there still needs to be organisation, structure and leadership, there should also be an openness for even the most junior of employees to contribute ideas for the betterment of the company. In order to get products and services out to people, businesses need to move fast and think on their feet. Being open to others can speed that along.

Work effectively alongside robotisation

There’s long been a negative perception of humans versus robots with invariably people losing out in the “rise of the machines”. However, the reality is as automation becomes more responsible for taking over tasks associated with lower cognitive functions, people will become more important than ever taking on tasks involving higher cognitive functions and complex decision making. As we learn to work more and more alongside a “digital workforce” we will learn how to manage this more effectively and efficiently. If we are agile and open, we will to adapt so we are in fact working smarter and not harder, which is a key to any business flourishing in the digital age.


* Stephen Scheeler is the Chairperson of CEBIT Australia. To keep updated on program developments please leave your details here.