A sign of a digitally mature organisation is when staff and leadership are well equipped to create and execute strategies for the 21st-century (digital) markets.

Digital leadership is about:

  • building understanding of the digital ecosystem (technology, processes, ways of working, mindsets)
  • motivating people to help them embrace and navigate change and learn new skills and new ways of working
  • facilitating activities that engage staff and make the digital vision a reality

Digital leaders understand the potential of the digital environments their supporters and audiences live in. They know how digital will contribute to their overall organisational strategy and to achieving their mission.

Technical skills and expertise are solid foundations for leadership. But good digital leadership is about much more. It’s about listening and empathising to foster a culture of trust and accountability. It’s about negotiation, compromise and collaboration.

Digital leaders don’t need to understand the intricacies of how technology works to lead change. They can draw on coaching techniques and the advice and expertise of colleagues. As coaching pioneer John Whitmore writes, if a leader is a good coach “they should have no difficulty creating a high-performance culture, whether they have technical depth or not. As soon as they do this, any credibility gap that may exist in the minds of some of their employees will disappear.”


Things to think about

  • Who is leading digital in your organisation? Is it your digital person or team, your senior leadership team or your executive director?
  • Are people with digital expertise consulted and involved in decision-making around digital projects and products?
  • Do digital experts have a seat at the table when main/important strategic decisions are being made
  • Does your organisation understand that it needs to embed digital at every level of what it does from the start?

Leadership: five levels of maturity

1. Minimal

There’s no clear digital leadership at any level.

2. Restricted

The digital lead is confined to a mostly tactical role.

3. Supported

The digital lead is able to be strategic, when time allows.

4. Elevated

At least one senior digital lead exists, and digital leadership is actively invested in.

5. Intrinsic

Digital is an integral part of the overall strategy and digital leadership is present at all levels and departments.


This short video from Lindsay Herbert, author of the book Digital Transformation, has a good description of dos and don’ts for a digital leader.

Average leadership score

Overall, for this leadership competency, organisations average out at level 2.9.

Leadership scores by year

These graphs show the average scores for culture over the last few years, expressed as a percentage.

  • 2020 60% 60%
  • 2019 54% 54%
  • 2018 52% 52%
  • 2017 54% 54%
  • 2016 46% 46%