Key takeaways

  • The concept of effective leadership skills has changed dramatically in the last 25 years
  • Leaders need to increase their Digital Quotient (DQ) to stay relevant in today’s digital world
  • The building blocks to increasing DQ requires a foundational rethinking of the organization
  • DQ can inject the startup innovative magic into mature companies without its pitfalls

For most of the 20th century, the traditional belief was that Intelligence Quotient (IQ) was the best gauge of outstanding leaders and translated accurately into cleverness, toughness, determination and vision. In the mid-1990s, this belief was modified by the concept of Emotional Quotient (EQ). It theorized that truly effective leaders, in addition to IQ, must possess a high degree of EQ with qualities such as self-awareness, inspiration, empathy, social and relationship management skills.

In the last two decades, we have witnessed an unprecedented technology disruption with mobility, social networks, big data analytics and cloud that have rapidly transformed every aspect of our personal and professional lives. It demands a new set of skills from today’s leaders to succeed in this digital age, one that goes beyond IQ and EQ. This complementary skill is Digital Quotient (DQ).

How do leaders gain and improve their Digital Quotient? It starts with a deep understanding and application of its building blocks.

  • Manage the unknowable. The sheer volume, velocity and variety of information generated in today’s world makes it impossible for one person to have all the answers. Digital age leaders must acknowledge the limits of their expertise and build a reliable network of knowledgeable experts to help them navigate through the choices.
  • Embrace an entrepreneurial approach. Great leaders are not necessarily the best entrepreneurs, but in an increasingly uncertain world, the courage to take risk has become a critical success factor for leaders. The ability to identify and understand trends, place bets and, most importantly, scale up or cut losses in a timely manner needs to be embedded into everyday business. ‘Failing Fast’ and ‘Falling Forward’ have become critical components of success in today’s world.
  • Create an organizational mind map.  Employees and organizations look to their leaders to interpret the mission, vision and chart a course through the maze of bewildering business and technological issues. The ability to visualize the big picture, understand the end game, set operating boundaries, and, define a mind map — akin to Google maps — to steer the organization in a fast changing, dynamic environment is vitally important for a digital leader.
  • Discern at speed.  Speed is the most distinctive quality of the digital age. No matter how fast one moves to transform the business, the depressing reality is that you still probably aren’t moving fast enough! Leaders need to sift through vast amounts of data, separate the wheat from the chaff in real time and drive effective decisions.
  • Shift to the Age of the Customer. In the past, management believed that customers could only choose two of the three benefits – speed, quality or cost. Today’s customers are uncompromising and demand all three because technology has made it possible. They want it all, they want it now and they want it for free! Leaders must fundamentally transform the mind sets of their organizations to meet and exceed customer expectations to survive in this new normal.
  • Inspire with Technology. Technology presents infinite possibilities and digital age leaders must apply it creatively to benefit their organizations, whether to generate ideas, share the vision or create stronger customer relationships. Technology is a great leveller and enables all employees to realize their potential and be the best they can be, which benefit them as well as the organization.


Technology start-ups are considered the trailblazers of innovation but the sobering reality is that 90% of start-ups fail due to a number of organizational, market or financial reasons. The good news is that industry incumbents are now able to build start-up like speed and innovation into their organizations, thanks to the new leadership mantra of intelligence, emotional and digital capabilities.

This calls for a singular clarity of purpose, thought and action from leaders to align teams to achieve common objectives. Employees benefit from this realignment as they reassess and acquire new skills for the future as do customers who stay satisfied and engaged. Rapid adjustment to the changing realities, deployment of counter strategies, injections of digital capabilities into organizations via acquisitions and creation of new business models relevant to digital natives has allows these leaders to beat start-ups at the digital game.

Enough said. Are you ready to explore your digital quotient?

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