Leadership in the Digital World

– people, networks and innovation

The world of today has been and is being transformed by digital technologies. The LeadershipGarage researches leadership in this digital world, asking how companies and organizations are adapting to the digital environment, how they are transforming themselves using digital technology, and how they will move forward as digital organizations. The LeadershipGarage has produced a detailed self-assessment tool for leaders to evaluate how well prepared they and their organizations are for the digital world. It is carrying out an in-depth study of the leadership practices of successful leaders in digital companies, including new forms of leadership such as shared leadership and peer leadership, and it is investigating the benefits and challenges of distance collaboration. The work of the LeadershipGarage is grounded in some key insights into the characteristics of digital organizations (networks, dialogue, learning) but, above all, the LeadershipGarage focuses on understanding and supporting leadership that merges digital technology with people-oriented organizational cultures to enhance healthy workplaces where employees can succeed and innovate.

Digital preparedness

How well are people prepared for leadership tasks and work conditions in the digital world? The LeadershipGarage has built a self-assessment tool that leaders can use to reflect on the challenges of the digital world and benchmark their own digital preparedness.

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Digital leadership

How can leaders be most effective in a modern digitally connected work environment? To understand digital leadership best practices, the LeadershipGarage is asking leaders how they bring innovative technology and a people-oriented culture together.

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Digital collaboration

What are the needs of people in networked interactions and remote collaborations? The LeadershipGarage is studying how leadership roles are distributed across networks, and how to achieve personal, emotional, and efficient communication over distances.

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Digital technology creates new possibilities for work flexibility, distance collaboration and access to knowledge. The flattened hierarchy and extensive network of a typical digital organization allows new forms of leadership and innovation everywhere throughout the organization. But these opportunities also represent challenges. Both the goals and methods of leadership are being transformed by these. Digital leadership stresses people: it builds identities and creates goals in networks, it fosters dialogue and supports employees, creating innovation and success.


Traditionally, companies have been hierarchies. But in the digital age, flatter, networked structures are both possible and necessary. A network enables all employees to collaborate and innovate, but can also be very challenging for individuals. Good leadership supports individual employees in this environment, and builds effective network structures. Leaders must also learn new skills to lead through networks, skills such as influence and storytelling.


Even as technology advances, people remain the most important part of an organization. Leaders must bring innovative technology together with a people-oriented culture of leadership. Dialogue and feedback are crucial, as well as communicating responsively and self-consciously. Leadership means focussing on human factors such as relationships and trust in order to offer orientation and develop common goals throughout the organization.


Information and knowledge are central to success in the digital world. More information is needed to succeed, but information is always accessible, e.g. through enhanced collaboration or crowdsourcing. Leaders can use tools such as mobile learning and gamification to create a learning culture where everyone in the organization can dynamically access information, and is comfortable with constant learning and development.


In the digital age, knowledge and technology have increased the pace of innovation. Companies must constantly innovate to keep up and to succeed. Leaders must foster initiative and innovation among their employees, supporting them in meeting the individual challenges of this environment, while creating an atmosphere that is both open to free, innovative thinking and rigorous and focussed on effective implementation.

These four factors – networks, dialogue, learning, and innovation – are all interlinked. This underlines how leadership needs to transform in the digital age, not just along one axis, but along many axes simultaneously. Leaders must lead their organizations towards new goals, under new pressures, facing new challenges, and using new tools and skills.