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Digital to the Core – Mind the Leadership Gap

by Graham Waller  |  November 9, 2015  |  1 Comment

Digital business doesn’t just disrupt markets, it disrupts tried-and-true management behaviors as well. “What got you here, will not get you there” was famously introduced to the management lexicon by Marshall Goldsmith. While he emphasized the need to adapt leadership style in rising through the executive ranks, today’s unique and challenging digital business leadership context can create a similar call to action. Indeed an unconscious bias toward past successful behaviors, now ill-suited to the unique demands of digital business, creates blind spots that can unwittingly undermine future success.

In the Smarter with Gartner article How leaders take Digital to the Core we describe how every industry will be digitally remastered and how to respond. Yes every industry, including some such as the music industry being remastered for a second time! Consider how Apple’s dominant design via the iTunes platform in round one is now being challenged by a plethora of streaming music models and bundled services. Or the recent news how Toyota Bets $1 Billion On Artificial Intelligence, yet another example of the current auto industry disruption including platform based ride models and the rise of autonomous vehicles.

To stay ahead and win in such dynamic marketplace contexts requires true leadership. By that I mean visionary leadership emphasizing behaviors that ‘challenge the norm’, in stark contrast to steady-state management which is more akin to polishing the current business model. For leaders comfortable with more linear management behaviors, those honed to seek certainty before acting on change, or overly risk adverse, this can fashion a dangerous leadership gap.

Survival of the fittest will necessitate learning agility and evolution of leadership style to meet the demanding needs of the digital business environment. In Mark Raskino and my book, Digital to the Core we describe six leadership personas common to successful digital business leaders; Adventurer, Ambassador, Clarifier, Educator, Attractor and Cartographer. Executives can and should close any leadership gaps by amplifying key personas most relevant to their digital business transformation situational context, while also selectively hiring and developing talent from within to ensure a digital-business-ready executive team.

Be careful to mind the gap between what got you here and what you need to thrive in today’s digital business competitive reality.


Graham P. Waller
VP, Executive Partner
6 years at Gartner
22 years IT industry

Graham Waller is a vice president and executive partner with Gartner Executive Programs. He supports CIO clients across variety of industries, assisting them in business-IT alignment and maximizing IT value. Read Full Bio

Thoughts on Digital to the Core – Mind the Leadership Gap

  1. I think the strength of detection is in the correlation between these three use case categories. So this should also be a part of the selection process or at least some thing to keep in mind.

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