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Diplomatic skills crucial for success

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BizTech by Dr JASSIM HAJI


In a digital business world, a leader excessively keen on digital business opportunity without a sense of diplomacy can be viewed as a loose cannon, a perception that can undermine digital business change success.

Certainly digital business leaders should harness an adventurer’s zeal for the digital business leadership journey to inspire others, but should temper what can be interpreted as overexuberance by employing an ambassadorial persona.

In Bahrain, we must embark on the digital business journey, and we will need leaders in Bahraini organisations to be such ambassadors.

The very best ambassadors exercise diplomacy as an artful balance of social interaction, relationships, persuasion and understanding of power.

Digital business leadership is not for the faint of heart, so these behaviours must be both forefront and honed – particularly when digital goes to the core of products, services and business models, at which point the stakes rise.

A key element of the ambassador’s persona relevant to digital business leaders who encounter resistance and conflict is that of loyalty to the enterprise’s core purpose.

If deep disruption is exposing tough change issues or silo conflicts, a digital business leader can revert back to the common core purpose to find common ground or the basis for a needed tough call.

When digital business moves to the core of external competitive strategy, championing and instilling confidence externally becomes mission-critical.

Digital business-savvy leaders are particularly well-placed to employ ambassador’s behaviours externally, whether it be selling a digital business vision or infusing confidence in digitally enabled products and services with customers.

To hone an ambassador persona, one can utilise an ambassador’s art of persuasion, always staying true to the enterprise’s core purpose, to work through conflicts and bring others along on your digital business journey, or one can champion digital products services and capabilities with customers, inspiring what is possible and instilling confidence to move forward.

For executives and leaders, embracing uncertainty is not a natural act.

However, as the deep disruption of digital business unfolds, uncertainty is a marketplace reality.

Given this persistent leadership context, successful digital business leaders flip their mindsets from viewing uncertainty as a paralysing force to seeing it as an opportunity.

Clarity was identified previously as a key future leadership skill defined as, “the ability to see through the messes and contradictions to the future that others cannot yet see.”

This of course is particularly difficult given the bewildering variety and sheer number of digital business change options.

A liberating behaviour as a C-level leader is to let go of the natural inclination and associated actions to “figure it all out” before moving forward.

Rather, replace this with behaviours of being incredibly clear about what you are making – for example, a unique digital business customer service value proposition – while being very flexible about how it gets made.

To achieve this, digital business leaders exploit experimentation behaviours as a “clarifier’s friend” by which it is meant employing practices such as rapid prototyping, fail-fast or iterate and scale-up behaviours to let customers and market forces help hone the winning execution models.

Complexity in direction-setting cannot be delegated, so deliberately emphasising a clarifier’s persona focused on what matters most in the midst of disruption and uncertainty is essential.

To optimise a clarifier persona, one can champion mindsets and behaviours suited to leading in an uncertain context; be clear about what you are making and flexible how it gets made, leveraging experimentation and fail-fast behaviours, and one can focus energy on what is most important by becoming a “clarifier” regarding personal core competency, always centring on impact to the most critical business outcomes. 

The author is a Bahrain-based management and technology expert

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