How to become a connected leader: 4 key factors

In an SAP SAPPHIRE 2019 session, Traci Maddox spoke about the benefits of being a connected leader in today's digitally transforming enterprise.

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The entire mission, environment, and personality of an organization begins at the top. Leaders are responsible for a company's efficiency, digital transformation initiatives, longevity, and more. Because of their multitude of responsibilities, leaders must be willing to evolve and grow, according to SAP director Traci Maddox.

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"Leadership must change along with everything else that is changing in our society," Maddox said in a recent session at SAP SAPPHIRE 2019 in Orlando.

Connection is a key driver in today's enterprise. Between social media connections, connected applications, connected cities, connected devices, and wireless connectivity, humans live in an interconnected society, forcing people to be interconnected with one another.

Digital transformation initiatives and investments in smart technology further demonstrate organizations' efforts to be connected. To keep up with a changing enterprise, leaders must also find ways to be personally connected, Maddox said.

Organizations that lack leaders who are connected to the digital workforce will suffer, Maddox said. Today's businesses face a new market of challenges: Ever-changing tech trends, customer expectations, business model disruption, user expectations, differing executive board opinions, data proliferation, workforce diversity, resource scarcity, and more.

Leaders must be prepared to handle these challenges, and to do so, must be connected to both the organization and the outside world, Maddox added.

"It's no longer survival of the fittest—it's the survival of the most agile," Maddox said. And to become connected, leaders must focus on themselves.

Maddox outlined the following four connection points leaders must meet to stay in the game.

1. Human

Enterprise leaders are now guiding a multi-generational workforce. "There are shifting demographics and complexities," said Maddox. "Retirement age workers will make up 20% of the US working population by 2030. Millennials will comprise 75% of the global workforce by 2025. And Gen Z is here, projected to make up 24% of the workforce by 2020."

The different age ranges bring different experiences, backgrounds, knowledge, and tech comfortability. These differences mean that leaders have to be able to connect with other humans, Maddox said, whether through empathy, holding others in high esteem, or providing encouragement.

2. Self

"Emotional intelligence is a critical factor as we think about the future of work and the future of our leaders," Maddox said. Emotional intelligence accounts for 90% of what moves people up the corporate ladder, according to Harvard Business Review research.

This means that leaders must learn about themselves. Maddox suggested either learning through meditation, outside feedback, listening, or self-assessment. Leaders need to know how they react to problems, how they handle tough situations, and how they communicate with people, she said.

3. Customer

Businesses operate to meet the needs of an audience, so leaders must learn what the customers need and want, Maddox said.

"Create empathy with your customers," Maddox said. "Figure out a way to engage with them to find out what they want. Get an idea of what their experience is like so you can guide the workforce toward those values."

4. Tech

Employees live and work in an intelligent enterprise, Maddox said, which means leaders must grow comfortable with technology themselves.

"Leaders should collaborate with technology instead of fighting with it," she noted. "Digital leadership pays off."

Digital leadership is "a new class of leaders that embraces a digital mindset and achieves stronger financial performance, more satisfied employees, greater inclusivity, and stronger leadership pipeline," Maddox added.

To help build a digital fluency, Maddox recommended leaders find a mentor, identify tech goals, and schedule times to practice and build a tech habit.

For more, check out this TechRepublic article on the four building blocks of resilience.

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Image: iStockphoto/NicoElNino

By Macy Bayern

Macy Bayern is an Associate Staff Writer for TechRepublic. A recent graduate from the University of Texas at Austin's Liberal Arts Honors Program, Macy covers tech news and trends.