The former First Lady Rosalynn Carter once said; “a leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to be.”
This is especially true in this digital transformation era where disruption is par for the course, spurred by technology at unimaginable rate and direction.
Leaders in the enterprise world will have to champion a disciplined execution that aligns digital initiatives, technologies and roadmaps across the entire organisation.
It isn't just about tech acumen - it is also about having the intestinal fortitude to make tough decisions that are required to drive the organisation ahead and get people to embrace change.
In the recent IDC Women in Tech panel discussion at the CIO Summit 2019 in Singapore, an important discussion point was on how leadership styles can influence transformation within organisations.
We had three female change-makers holding positions of influence: Yim Cheng Siew, chief digital officer of JTC Corporation; Galina Voloshyna, APAC data and analytics IT director of Coca-Cola; and Siew Choo Soh, managing director and group head of Consumer Banking and Big Data/AI of DBS Bank.
Ms. Yim Cheng has direct responsibility for the digital transformation of her organisation and manages a wide portfolio which includes systems and technologies.
She led JTC to a win in IDC’s regional Digital Transformation awards finals last year, a testament to her leadership. Galina, meanwhile, is an IT leader with 15 years of experience in creating business intelligence and data analytics.
When Coca-Cola had the monumental task of tracking product sales across several key target markets through a real-time dashboard of analytics and BI, Galina took on the challenge.
Finally, Ms. Choo Soh holds responsibility for driving DBS Bank’s enterprise-wide technology solutions and strategies for consumer banking.
With digitalisation identified as a key part of DBS’ strategy to win big in the digital economy, she drives the organisation’s multi-year technology roadmap, ensuring high quality deliveries and taking innovation and agility to the next level.
While a single enterprise strategy, resoluteness towards change, long term investments and a single platform for scale are some of the key parts of every CIO’s digital determination playbook, their respective journeys went beyond that.
The common traits among the panellists - managing ambiguity, resilience, risk-taking, inclusivity, and empathy - ring loud.
They are inclusive and collaborative in their decision-making and leadership, characteristic of those leading agile, disruptive organisations.
There are schools of thought that suggest diversity leads to better problem solving, and that having more women in corporate leadership roles actually brings an essential competitive advantage in building strategy, engaging with customers, and uncovering new opportunities.
Here are other ways diversity in leadership can be advantageous to organisations:
- Several studies support that female executives appear to be better at inspiring belief, resulting in increased overall employee engagement and adoption of change
- Introducing new voices into management roles can bring a fresh perspective
- Women executives have access to different pipelines of qualified employees, especially since having females in executive positions makes both male and female employees believe they can achieve a leadership role
Gender alone should not be a factor in whether or not a person can be a great leader, but having a more diverse leadership board promotes more workplace empathy which translates to an increase in innovation because of the ability to have a more diverse set of solutions to specific problems.
Diversity also brings in wider range of skills such as empathy and improves insights.
Women leaders can bring, over and above technical expertise and business acumen, a resoluteness toward organisational and cultural changes to bring the organisation where it doesn’t necessarily want to go, but ought to go.
That is what makes such leaders exceptional.
Eva Au is managing director of IDC Asia Pacific