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Digital Acumen and Leadership Communication happily married

What is the definition of a good leader? Can we find an answer that we will all agree with? If we try googling for a universal answer we are immediately overwhelmed with numerous possibilities, opinions, theories, books, and quotes. And, they are probably all correct. Depending, of course on the writer’s point of view or specific circumstances.

Leader’s success

One thing that is in common with all perspectives is the fact that a leader’s success is highly dependent on the ability to effectively communicate with different audiences.

Leader’s communication is, obviously, most effective when adapted to individual preferences of the other person from all aspects – verbal or written content (the message itself) and prevalently important non-verbal signaling (the carrier).

Personal interaction normally consists of verbal and non-verbal communication. Digital communication lacks traditional non-verbal cues, which may cause misunderstandings and complicates meaningful interpersonal communication.

Besides, technology is providing different ways of communication. Starting with traditional cell phones, e-mails or chats – perceived as archaic by Gen Y and Z. These is the population which consumes information instantaneously, and losing interest just as fast (I like the term “snack media consumers”). Other side of the spectre is modern communication multichannel tools like Microsoft Teams, Slack and similar that are experiencing rapid growth in usage additionally boosted by COVID crisis in 2020.

Digital Acumen

The vast quantity of available communication options is great, but is it adding value to leadership communication? Or, is this complexity reducing the quality? The fact is that “face to face” communication skills we learned before are still super important. Unfortunately, they cannot be applied effectively without another skillset at our disposal.  This skillset is what we call Digital Acumen. Leaders need to UNDERSTAND, KNOW, and APPLY digital technology for effective communication.

Most leaders will claim that their organization is investing a lot in all topics related to the outworn “Digital Transformation”. And yes, in many cases this is true as they cannot survive without such investments.

The necessity to build “digital skills”, bridge the “digital talent gap”, upskill or reskill the workforce is not something new and is recognized by most. Even our EU bureaucracy has recognized that “something needs to be done” and will devote biggest ever resources thru the new Digital Europe Programme.

The question is – how many of these investments are focused on building the personal Digital Acumen of leaders? Isn’t that the best place to start? What do you think?

December 2, 2020
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