Cirrus welcomed 20 leaders to a roundtable discussion on Thursday 16 November at the Mondrian London hotel. The theme was ‘Leading in a Digital World’, a topic that is a real strategic priority for many of our clients, and for many organisations everywhere.

A wide range of organisations were represented, including Anthony Nolan, Avis, BA, BT, Burberry, FCA, Government Legal Department, Horizon Nuclear Power, HSBC, Insight Investment, Macmillan, Nuffield Health, RBS and Shop Direct.

Cirrus CEO Dr Simon Hayward set the scene by referring to recent research from Deloitte which found that 90% of organisations believe their core business is threatened by new digital competitors, while 70% believe they do not have the right leadership, skills or operating models to adapt.

Digital disruptors such as Skype, Spotify, Netflix and Airbnb have redefined their marketplaces and forced well-established companies to change the way they do business.

As the effects of digitisation continue to accelerate in all areas of life, Simon proposes we need to embrace a leadership paradox: great leaders connect colleagues and customers, and yet they also challenge the status quo, disrupting thinking and breaking well-established norms.

Simon’s first book, Connected Leadership, proposes a more collaborative style of leadership to help organisations become more collaborative and customer-driven in our fast-moving digital age. His second book, The Agile Leader, will be published in 2018. It focuses on agility, a key factor of Connected Leadership, and an essential skill in our digital world

We posed a few questions to our group of guests and there was a great deal of very lively and interesting discussion around the table. Many interesting points were raised, and we’ve captured a few here:

What kind of digital disruption is happening in your organisation and your industry?

  • There is widespread change on a massive scale across all industries
  • It’s not just external factors disrupting organisations – many employees are becoming more fearless and demanding and creating disruption from the inside
  • Disruptive activity may harm short-term revenue but can enhance long-term customer satisfaction
  • If you’re not nesting in digital, your competitors are
  • Customers have high expectations, many expect 24/7 service.

What solutions can help you address the challenges of leading in a digital world?

  • We all need to embrace change wholeheartedly and ‘adapt or die’
  • Systems and processes need to be customer-centric
  • Create a ‘fail fast and learn’ culture where people feel safe to make mistakes and move on
  • Stop suffocating new talent. New employees are often full of innovative ideas – organisations need to nurture this more.

How does learning and development need to change?

  • Focus on future skills and building capability
  • Shift focus away from traditional workshop-style learning towards more experiential learning
  • Encourage leaders who feel reassured by traditional learning methods to try new methods for themselves and their teams
  • Draw on marketing techniques to promote learning opportunities and engage colleagues with immersive experiences
  • Refine your range of learning options as you evolve rather than constantly adding more.

What do leaders need to do?

  • Set a clear vision and purpose
  • Embrace ambiguity
  • ‘Let go’ and empower others.

We are also holding a lunchtime webinar on Wednesday 29 November: Ten tips to lead in a digital world. We’d love you to join us. You can register here.

Beyond Digital Leadership: read our post on why leadership in our digital world is such a major issue for so many organisations.

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