Why Leaders Must Embrace Digital Transformation to Succeed


The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many organizations around the world to digitize their workforces. As the pandemic continues and remote work becomes the new norm for many organizations, leaders who fail to effectively transition into the digital realm may struggle. However, there are steps they can take to adopt the increasingly digital workspace and become digitally savvy leaders.

Employees Want Digitally Savvy Leaders

According to a newly released report from MIT Sloan Management Review, 93% of employees across regions and industries think digital savviness is necessary to succeed. Having a sense of purpose is also important. 72% of workers surveyed stated that they “strongly agree that it is very important to them to work for an organization with a purpose they believe in,” according to the Leadership’s Digital Transformation report. Additionally, 88% of workers surveyed reported that having leaders who are digitally savvy is critical to their company’s ability to achieve that purpose. 

However, less than half of those surveyed said their organizations have created project teams that are intentionally diverse when it comes to digital savviness. Furthermore, only 31% thought their companies were assessing the digital skills of their managers. Less than 20% thought their companies were ensuring digital know-how among their high ranking managers. 

Focus on Purpose

Your workers can often sense if you aren’t passionate about the organization and its purpose. If you want them to feel more confident in your leadership, you need to regularly communicate the organization’s strategic purposes to your team. It can help to specify how the organization’s purposes align with their productivity and goals.

“Having a compelling mission statement isn’t enough,” the report states. “Serious leaders must appear as genuinely passionate about enterprise purpose as they are about strategy, agility, and customer centricity. The key is to authentically embed and enable purpose as part of the organization’s digital transformation trajectory. Purpose thus has an operational as well as an aspirational rationale that invites new leadership accountability.”

Develop “Digital Situational Awareness”

Since the pandemic began, remote work has blurred the traditional boundaries between work and home. Even when the work day is over, many workers still find themselves fielding emails. Often, they have to choose between work and family obligations. 

Just 28% of workers surveyed said their company had policies on how and when to contact them beyond work hours. Furthermore, only 24% said their company stuck to these policies if they had them. 

For many, gone are the days when workers could simply knock on their manager’s door. Remote employees need clarity around when and how to reach out to their bosses. This means leaders need to establish boundaries and make an effort to respect these guidelines.

“The key to being measurably more effective is becoming measurably more affective,” the report states. “Leaders who want to succeed have no choice but to digitally transform themselves. Leaders who are unwilling or unable to proactively use data and analytics to understand how their leadership is experienced will underperform.”

Take Advantage of “Mutual Mentoring”

One way leaders can digitally transform themselves is through “mutual” or “reverse” mentoring, in which younger employees mentor those who are older. Although 71% of survey respondents thought younger workers were more successful at obtaining value from digital tools at their organizations, just 19% said their organizations engaged in this kind of mentorship.

The pandemic will eventually end, but remote work is here to stay for many people. If leaders want to be successful, they need to adjust to a new way of managing employees, and for many, digital transformation will be key to their success.

Create Leaders in Your Organization

IEEE has partnered with Rutgers Business School to offer the IEEE | Rutgers Online Mini-MBA for Engineers. Designed specifically for groups of ten or more within an organization, this program operates entirely online. It features topics including business strategy, managing product development, finance, negotiation, managing human capital, intellectual property strategy, and transformational agility.

Participants will learn how to make organizational decisions with both technical and operational considerations. After developing an understanding of how different functional groups interact to achieve overall goals, they will learn to apply their newly developed business skills to better align their technical capabilities with business strategy.

The program offers the option of a customized capstone project, completely aligned to the needs of your organization. As part of the project, you’ll receive feedback from program professors who have worked as engineering leaders themselves.

To learn more about the IEEE | Rutgers Online Mini-MBA for Engineers for your organization, contact an IEEE Account Manager today.


(26 January 2021). Leadership’s Digital Transformation: Leading Purposely in an Era of Context Collapse. MIT Sloan Management Review.

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