Five Essential Skills of a Leader in the Digital Age

Vitaly Gerko outlines the key skills modern leaders need for success and how to incorporate them into their everyday lives.

You probably know the feeling: the world is spinning faster than a fidget spinner on double espresso. Leading in this fast-paced world demands a unique toolkit – a blend of skills and perspectives that prepare you for challenges and opportunities, distinguishing successful leaders.

These five core skills are essential for thriving in the digital age, as they are the ones that have helped me navigate the ups and downs across different industries. That’s why today I am here to share them with you to succeed in the dynamic business environment:

Embrace Lifelong Learning

Continuous learning and studying are crucial in the digital age, as they cultivate a culture of growth, adaptability, and innovation. I’ve seen firsthand how never-ending learning is an investment that yields significant benefits for entrepreneurs and organisations for long-term business success.

This is particularly beneficial for the IT industry, with 41% of HR leaders reporting that their companies will prioritise communication and emerging tech skills for remote work, and 42% anticipate upskilling and reskilling initiatives for employees. That’s also one of the reasons why I tell my team to invest in themselves, keep growing and learning, and encourage everyone to read, network, and stay at the forefront of industry advancements as it forms the basis of strategy.

Furthermore, a learning culture aims to provide high-quality, continuous learning opportunities accessible anytime, anywhere, and in any learning modality. For example, over 75% of HR leaders expect to enhance their tools for personalised talent development. Nearly 9 out of 10 workers wish to have their training available whenever needed.

In my experience, lifelong learning is necessary for progress, especially in leading teams and developing businesses. That is why each company, service, or platform should have a clear strategic vision to plan for long-term and short-term progression.

Learn from Every Experience

Trying new things and remaining open to fresh approaches is vital in business, so I always encourage my team to embrace new ideas and experiments, and yes, even make mistakes. A study reveals that 84% of small business owners and employees globally view mistakes as growth opportunities. Indeed, leveraging one's experiences implies taking risks, which could lead to new opportunities and development paths. Accepting failure is also crucial for future success – stepping outside your comfort zone can open doors to unforeseen possibilities.

Beyond that, entrepreneurial risk-taking involves challenging the status quo and seizing opportunities others might avoid. Implementing enterprise risk management (ERM) programs can help address risk aversion and manage risk wisely. Companies that excel at making smart, riskier growth bets generate a total shareholder return premium of 7% over their industry peers. Nevertheless, what matters here the most is to foster a culture where we openly discuss, collaborate, and learn from each other’s experiences.

Master the Art of Balance

While most people focus on developing hard skills, focusing on soft skills and personal development is crucial. This involves enhancing both hard and soft skills that make you a team player, a leader, and, ultimately, successful. Research in 2016 found that 93% of employers consider soft skills "very important" or "essential." Moreover, research conducted by Harvard University, the Carnegie Foundation, and Stanford Research Center concluded that 85% of job success comes from well-developed soft and people skills. In comparison, only 15% comes from technical skills and knowledge (hard skills).

Personal development also involves maintaining a healthy work-life balance. For example, I strongly advise incorporating physical activities like tennis or swimming into your routine, which can yield significant health benefits. As for me, they help me clear my mind, boost my energy, and come back sharper.

Unify Your Team

Leadership can sometimes be a lonely role. However, most successful leaders have a talented team supporting them. For instance, the founders of Apple, Tesla, and Telegram all have exceptional teams behind their success. Consider these statistics: online collaboration tools can boost productivity by 30%, effective communication increases talent retention by 4.5 times, and recognising teams' work quality and achievements can raise profits by 29%. It's about building cohesive teams, envisioning the future, and strategising.

This demonstrates how fostering strong and cohesive teams can create a collective vision, effective communication, and strategic collaboration. Essentially, they are strategic visionaries who anticipate future scenarios and have the expertise to make them a reality or enhance them for individuals, companies, and clients. Such teams are typically composed of highly competitive and competent individuals who drive the company forward.

So, to my fellow leaders out there: remember, authentic leadership isn't a solo act. Embrace the power of your team, build strong connections, and watch your collective success soar.

Harness the Power of Data

Like many other leaders, I prioritise financial metrics in this virtual landscape, from delegating to tracking these metrics. Digitalising finance metrics can make leaders' decision-making process more straightforward and practical, as entrepreneurs would have all data under their fingertips. So, businesses can generate more accurate results to drive company growth and development with the help of digitalising internal processes, making operations transparent for their stakeholders.

The anticipated growth of the global digital transformation market highlights the significance of digital metrics. It is predicted to expand from $469.8 billion in 2020 to $1,009.8 billion by 2025 at a CAGR of 16.5%. These metrics can measure every aspect of a digital marketing strategy, ensuring that activities align with the intended direction. When digital metrics were prioritised, customer satisfaction scores improved from average to market-leading, and revenues from digital offerings grew from less than 10% to over 40%. That's the kind of impact clear, data-driven insights can have.

Much like the hockey stick concept, accelerated growth is only achievable with the right strategy, a strong team, and the digitalisation of all revenue streams, including affinity indices. Companies such as Comcast, Netflix, Nike, Nestlé, Spotify, Sephora, and UPS have demonstrated significant performance improvements following their digital transformations.

Integrating these five qualities into daily routines can help entrepreneurs and businesses excel in the ever-changing digital landscape. So, promote continuous learning, turn setbacks into opportunities for growth, maintain a balanced personal and professional life, utilise the strength of teamwork, and extract insights from data.