Role of Leadership in Digital Transformation

global digital leadership

We are in the midst of a digital revolution so powerful that even the COVID-19 pandemic could not slow it down.

In fact, in many ways, the pandemic heightened our reliance on technology and accelerated the pace of digital innovation.

The revival of QR codes, the proliferation of contactless technology, and the rapid development of life-saving vaccines are just some of the ways that innovation prevailed and helped us navigate this tumultuous time.

Indeed, technology is here to stay. And businesses large and small, long-standing, and new, are starting to take notice in a big way.

As digital tools become the norm in every aspect of modern life, business leaders’ interest in digital transformation has skyrocketed.

In fact, according to this report by Finances Online, the digital transformation market is expected to grow from $469.8 billion in 2020 to $1,009.8 billion in 2025.

The same report found that 70% of organizations already have a digital transformation plan or have started working on one.

The only problem? Organizations lack strong digital leadership.

According to a study conducted by the MIT Sloan Management Review, only 25% of CEOs are digitally proficient, and only 7% of businesses are led by a digitally competent group of leaders.

Further, technological proficiency is only one piece of the puzzle when it comes to leading a digital transformation.

Leadership must play a multi-faceted, dynamic role during a digital transformation. Understanding technology is only one of their many responsibilities.

And that’s exactly what this article is going to cover – the complex (and vital!) role of leadership during a digital transformation.

Here’s what we’re going to talk about:

  • What is digital transformation?
  • How to lead a digital transformation
  • Lead by example
  • Use technology to promote company values
  • Manage the change effectively
  • Foster harmony and synchronicity within and across teams 

Keep scrolling to learn all about what it means to be a digital transformation leader.


Digital transformation AI

Digital transformation is the process of revolutionizing a business through strategic technology implementation. Its primary purpose is to make an organization relevant and competitive in an increasingly technological world.

To accomplish a transformation, leaders must weave digital tools throughout the organization in a way that elevates performance. They must also fundamentally reimagine the way the organization operates.

Digital transformation strategies are as diverse as the organizations that carry them out.

Although highly variable, these transformations can be categorized into four broad types:

Process Transformation  

The primary goal of a process-driven transformation is to improve process efficiency. Thus, all digital changes will be oriented towards improving processes. For instance, leadership might prioritize technology that reduces wasted resources and processing times.

Cultural Transformation

Also known as an organizational transformation, this is the broadest type of digital revolution. Transformations at the cultural level use technology to redefine what it means to be a part of the organization. Everything from day-to-day operations, to employee training, to company values will see a drastic shift as technology is folded into the business.

Business Model Transformation

Business model transformation is akin to industry disruption. Here, an organization puts forth an innovative product or service that redefines how their industry creates value. A great example of this is the first iPhone, which broke paradigms in the telecommunications industry.

Domain Transformation

Domain transformation is like diversification, only more powerful. It involves using your current resources and market position to merge into a more promising, digitized industry. For instance, a graphic design firm that pivots from printing products to minting NFTs would be an example of a domain transformation.

While there are distinct varieties of transformation, they all bleed into one another in the real world. Businesses often combine different strategies and objectives to achieve a truly holistic digital revamping.

Regardless of the subcategory, one thing is certain of all digital transformations: they require sweeping changes, decisive action, and fearless leadership.


online team meeting

Like any organizational change, a successful digital transformation must begin at the top and seamlessly flow to all corners of the business.

There are many ways that leadership and digital transformation intersect. In the following section, we highlight the role that organizational leadership should play in a digital transformation.

Lead by example 

Leaders must “walk the walk” in order to ensure technology is embraced by all employees, not just the IT department. This means business leaders must invest in their own digital proficiency. Why? Authenticity matters to employees. If you ask employees to level-up their tech skills, but you don’t know how to send a Zoom meeting invitation – let’s just say that doesn’t send a consistent message about the importance of technology in your business. In short, tech-literate leaders promote buy-in by practicing what they preach.

Use technology to promote company values  

Technology without values and a moral compass leads to dystopian nightmares in movies, and in real life! Leadership plays a crucial role, not only in setting company values, but in promoting them every day. Therefore, leaders must also ensure that company values and a healthy company culture remain at the core of the digital transformation. Plus, according to research from the MIT Sloan Management Review, modern workforces expect this from their leaders.

Manage the change effectively

Digital transformation is all about change management, and change management is all about effective leadership. Even the best digital transformation plan is destined to fail if the change is not managed correctly. To minimize disruptions while navigating transformation, leaders must commit to best practices in change management.

Foster harmony and synchronicity within teams

Just because you’re working with new technology doesn’t mean that collaboration and teamwork are not important. In fact, with employees spending so much time behind computer screens, deliberate team-building efforts are more necessary than ever. As leaders, it is our responsibility to foster teamwork. This will not only improve productivity; it will also create a better, more engaging digital environment for your employees.


These days, it may seem like every business is rushing to unveil their own digital transformation. But a successful transformation doesn’t just depend on shiny new hardware. It hinges on capable, forward-thinking leadership.

Whether they’re department heads, CEOs, or the board of directors, business leaders of all ranks must play an active role in digital transformations.

For a successful digital transformation, leaders must lead by example, use technology to promote company values & culture, manage the change effectively, and foster teamwork.

Momentous change requires bold leadership. Ready to become a digital transformation leader? Contact us today to begin a technological revolution in your organization.

“A vision cannot be realized without the ability to execute.”

Khris K. Bhattan
President, RTG Solutions Group
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