Leadership has been around since man began to organize in groups. Cavemen had to organize themselves for hunts, just in the way modern business men organize themselves to achieve their goals. Leadership itself, has gone through many changes: including switching from being analog to digital.
Analog leadership is very much the old way of thinking. It’s very linear, very big-project oriented. Not big picture – big project. It’s also very slow and inefficient. Digital leadership is very speedy. It jumps around a lot. It maximizes resources, and doesn’t worry too much about following a process from start to finish as much as getting the best results.
Here are 5 differences between analog and digital leaders:
1. Approach to failure
In the analog world, failure was not really an option. You were given a task, and you had to see it through. There is no such thing as failure. You must succeed at all costs. Follow this line, and bust through all obstacles.
The digital world looks at failure much different. It allows for failure, and even encourages it. Only by failing will you be able to get to the destination quicker. Where an analog leader would push on and try to bust through a brick wall – no matter how long it takes – the digital leader would simply accept the failure and build a new path to get to the destination.
“Failure is the key to success; each mistake teaches us something.” – Morihei Ueshiba
2. Organization structure
As you’ve read on about leaders previously, managing millennials is much different than the traditional analog structure. The old analog structure was very much a top down organizational chart, with a clear line of subordinates.
In the analog world, the power and influence was highly concentrated at the top. This meant that managers just passed instructions down, in a straight line, until they reached the employee.
In the digital work environment, collaboration is a lot more important. Everyone has a voice within the company structure. Ideas and decisions are made at the lower levels amongst teams, and passed to the top. The power is spread out, ideas come from everywhere, and the organization is able to adapt much quicker.
3. Staff management
Too often in the analog world, management would attract staff and do everything they could to try to keep them happy and productive. This was considered talent hoarding. It’s a very analog approach: get talent, stick them in a chair, make product, and repeat. The goals of the employee were not important. Company first. Always.
The digital leader knows that’s not how you create the best possible product. They don’t try and hoard talent. They only bring in talent with the ambition to become more. They nurture talent, trying to grow their abilities with the hope that they’ll one day leave the team when they reach their peak.
Digital leaders don’t look at this as a loss, they look at it like it’s the only way to get the best possible people working for them and for the company. If you’re not hiring people with ambition to do more, what kind of people are you hiring?
4. Product development
The number one barrier to leadership is not listening. Product development is no different. In the analog world, leaders would develop or invent a product, and then send it to market. If the product fails, that’s the end of it.
Many companies now do it the digital way – they look to the market first, and develop products based on this need. Apple is a great example of how the marketplace guides the development process. Steve Jobs is a digital leader in his approach to making the products people love.
Steve never let the engineers tell him what was possible. He always pushed the engineers to design the products with the customer in mind. It’s why so many products were so consumer friendly.
This also ties in with organizational structure. Steve never said “do it this way” and passed it down, he let the customer tell him how to do it, and that’s what he communicated to the engineers. It’s not that Steve wasn’t in control, he just used the voice of the customer to guide him, which is what a digital leader does.
“If you don’t listen, you’re never gonna learn.” – Frank Lero
5. Inside the box or outside the box
Analog leaders are very much working inside the constraints of the organization. Ideas come from the top down, only certain things are possible, work within your means, and always look to the most experienced person in the organization for information.
The digital leader knows no boundaries. They learn to think outside the box. They don’t rely on the advice of the most experienced employees. They look to them for their input, but ideas matter so much more than experience. They don’t just look at the organization and figure out what’s possible. They figure out what they want to do, no matter how impossible it is, and rework the organization to make those things happen.
Being a digital leader means things like yearly performance reviews are a thing of the past. Today, it’s about real-time communication with employees. A constant feedback cycle so that the business can involve everyone.