Technology advances almost daily, our dependency on digital has deepened – especially during lockdown – and our workplaces are constantly changing to embrace innovation and adapt to new practices. This landscape of constant disruption and terminal change makes transformation a never-ending journey as businesses strive to improve and drive efficiencies with new developments.

In our latest industry white paper, we explore the behaviours and competencies leaders require as organisations enter an age of digital dependency. Businesses’ reliance on technology means all leaders, regardless of remit or role, require an appreciation of digital models and data. When coupled with the need for all leaders to be skilled communicators and relationship builders – again key for smooth transitions and managing change – two defining behaviours emerge: Digital Intelligence (DQ) and Emotional Intelligence (EQ). 


Digital Intelligence or DQ is the ability to understand digital technologies and data and exploit the insight or new capability to grow and improve the business. At its core, this refers to customer-centric information, which will help to win, keep and grow customers; a key focus for many organisations to accelerate post-pandemic recovery. The ability to use data to predict trends enables successful investment, price setting and margin management.

It is neither practical nor possible to expect leaders to be familiar with the finer details of every system and software development. Considering how quickly technical skills can become outdated, it is a waste of resources to equip employees with specific system knowledge beyond what is required to execute their daily job. However, alongside recruiting and training for the skills candidates need to fulfil the role, leadership development must support broader understanding and experience of digital and data.

DQ enables leaders to assess the potential benefits and risks innovations bring and empowers them to make quick, informed investment decisions about emerging technology. It also prevents them from being dazzled by “shiny new” technology. With automation still promising to revolutionise our workplace and drive efficiency there is a risk that everything is upgraded and then left to run automatically. Leaders with high DQ will assess processes before simply automating them, therefore determining whether they are fit for purpose in the first place. Lack of understanding about how new advancements can be valuable and the commercial problems they will solve, could simply be a source of misplaced investment and future technical debt.  


Transformational success is also dependent on leaders’ ability to unite teams. Leaders of change are still leaders of people after all, and they must still be personable, empathetic and trusted to implement new ways of working. Emotional Intelligence (EQ) signifies an awareness of how emotions can impact our own and other people’s behaviour and reactions. In periods of uncertainty and rapid change, the ability to understand how other people are feeling enables leaders to motivate and reassure. It can also build resilience as individuals can rationalise their own emotional response to situations, giving them greater control and helping them to find the grit to see things through.    

In our increasingly complex world, organisations have to balance commercial values with environmental and social (ESG) responsibilities, and a duty of care to employees, suppliers and customers. From a leadership perspective, understanding and influencing others has never been more important. Throughout the pandemic HR teams have relied on leaders and managers to support staff wellbeing; executives with high EQ have shown their value. Using different platforms to communicate has encouraged informal discussion, helping leaders and employees to speak candidly where appropriate and share genuine concerns. This authentic form of communication builds trust and bonds teams, which supports retention and minimises feelings of isolation or unhappiness. As organisations switch to permanent remote working or hybrid models, these honest interactions will help to build support networks and maintain wellbeing.

Developing leaders to recognise emotional responses will also help them to build stronger connections, which ultimately adds value to customer and stakeholder relations, as well as improving team management – all essential for progress.  

To read more about core digital leadership behaviours for a digitally dependent world, download our latest white paper, The D Suite: Digital, Data, Disruption and Dependency.

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