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March 24, 2017
Future workforce: Defining the digital enterprise leader
By: Arabel Bailey

Over my past four blogs I’ve been looking at new research from Accenture, which has shown just how dramatically digital technology is changing enterprises. From the disintegration of hierarchical operational models and the fragmentation of the workforce to the rise of Artificial Intelligence, the traditional workforce is being transformed, and in the process demanding new modes of leadership.

In this final blog, I’d like to assess the effect these changes will have on how enterprises are led. How will leaders adapt to the challenges of the new workforce, and how will they steer their businesses towards success?

Accenture has developed four predictions about how leadership will change in the future. We’re advising businesses check their readiness against these predictions; for as digital disruption continues to unfold, companies with the right leadership models in place will have a clear competitive advantage:

Prediction 1: Leaders will live in their networks

In a world where the workforce is fragmented and looser employment structures predominate, the best leaders will be able to create and manage complex professional networks. Using advanced collaboration and mobile tools, successful leaders will tap into global conversations and better connect the organisation; distributing information and authority more widely than in the past.

Prediction 2: Leaders will share their brains

In the digital age, it’ll be more important than ever for leaders to communicate a compelling vision of the company and its strategy to employees. The best leaders will be aware of their cognitive blind spots and biases, and will overcome these to be as accessible as possible to all employees. Semantic software and unstructured data analytics tools will enable business leaders to map out their thinking in a way that employees and partners can explore at length. The result will be a workforce that better understands the goals and values of its leaders. 

Prediction 3: Leaders will include a machine on their leadership team

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is opening new doors for businesses and the technology is already at a stage where machines can offer deep, rigorously data-driven insights to leadership teams. The leaders of the digital age will use AI alongside human cognition; employing the resulting insights to fuel innovation, differentiation and operational efficiency.

Prediction 4: Leaders will practice a new form of intelligence

The challenge facing tomorrow’s leaders is one of integration: Bringing together people from widely differing backgrounds and geographies and enabling them to collaborate effectively—both with each other and with machines. To succeed in this task, leaders will need to draw on a new type of "spiritual" intelligence and enthuse employees with a shared sense of purpose. The most successful leaders will be able to merge the aims of the company with the aims and interests of individual employees to create a more social and united organisation. 

The journey starts here

The changes that lie ahead may seem daunting, but before long the skills needed to manage the digital enterprise will be second nature. What’s needed is for leaders to start work on the required cultural change as soon as possible. The longer leaders give themselves to discard obsolete leadership practices and embed new ones, the more likely they are to succeed in their digital transformations.

For more information on what digital transformation means for leadership please see our full report: Leading the Digital Enterprise.

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