Digital leadership is about:

  • building understanding of the digital ecosystem,
  • motivating people and
  • facilitating activities that make the digital vision a reality.

Digital leaders understand the potential of digital. They can identify how digital will contribute to the organisational strategy. 

Technical skills and expertise are solid foundations for leadership. But good digital leadership is about much more. It’s about listening and empathising to build trust. It’s about negotiating and compromising to collaborate constructively.

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 chief executive?
  • Are people with digital expertise consulted and involved in decision-making around digital projects and products?
  • Does your organisation understand that it needs to embed digital at all levels of what it does?

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 encouraged to be strategic, when time allows.

4. Elevated

A 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.


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 2.8.

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%