Julie Hawker, Cosmic
Many people in business will know about Stephen Covey’s seminal work “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Leaders” (1. be proactive, 2. begin with the end in mind, 3. first-things-first, 4. think win-win, 5. understand first then be understood, 6. synergize, 7. sharpen the saw)

The book was published almost 15 years ago now and has stood the test of time very well, with a good deal of learning materials, conferences and networks making great use of the piece for debate and personal development.  He has since progressed to creating The 8th Habit – “From Effectiveness to Greatness”.

Others (plenty) have written about the importance of effective leadership in successful organisations, and how that can be achieved. There is a rampant debate in academic circles about the ‘nature versus nurture’ on the subject of leadership development – are we born with it or do we learn it?  Jim Collins “Good to Great” gives another brilliant perspective on leaders and their role in success – do you all know how to get your staff “on the bus”?  And then, more recently, there’s Simon Sinek and his approach to leadership including “Start with Why” and “Leaders Eat Last”.  We love the TED talks on leadership and you’ll find lots more there too – here’s the link to Simon Sinek talk this year.

Thinking on the issue of leadership and how vital digital skills, understanding and strategic fit can be for most business leaders, we’ve developed our own 7 Habits list –  The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Digital Leaders :

1. Listen and Share
2. Be a Responder
3. Always be learning
4. Think win/win
5. Sharpen and Publish
6. Skill versus Will  
7. Think Big

And as the years progress of course, we are faced with a growing number of colleagues, staff and customers who were born into the digital age (the Digital Natives) and therefore have less of the old-style resistance, reservations and fears about digital technologies. They have benefited from both the  ‘nature and nurture’ of their digital skills development.

We, as business leaders, then surely have to develop our own knowledge, skills and style in the use of digital technologies in our businesses. Is this a challenge you’ve recognised, accepted and embraced as yet? If not then here’s our breakdown of the Seven Habits you could develop in the months and years ahead.

Listen and Share - participate regularly and encourage others

Listening – Twitter is the obvious choice here. Follow the people whose updates will give you insights, knowledge, news and advice. Depending on the sector of business you’re in you can spend some time researching who would fit the bill for you and has an element of ‘thought leadership’. This will take some time initially as you filter the good from the bad, but it’s worth it once you’ve accessed great contacts and contents. As well as following key thought leaders, you can also use the hashtag approach – spend some time researching which # are used specific to your business sector or you areas of interest – which might be local e.g. #exeterbusiness or #plymouth, they might be business related #cosmicuk

You’ll also be able to use this approach to learning more about who’s connected to who.And when you find a nugget of news, information and interest, don’t forget to share it – Re-Tweeting great quality content will help your followers and gain you ‘kudos’ in the Twittersphere.

LinkedIn is another greater choice for listening and learning – and then sharing knowledge. As the professionals social network you can develop a real sense of who’s interested in your knowledge and work and therefore you can develop new connections and contacts using this approach.

By using the tools which Google has developed you’ll potentially be able to filter and check for updates without too much time and effort - Google Reader and Google Alerts are both worth looking at for these purposes.


Be a Responder - available, supportive, empowering people

Using a range of online tools we can develop a real and manageable approach to engaging people and supporting them to learn, develop and reach new audiences. Twitter is highly effective for this approach but can be time-consuming if you want to check what all your followers are asking and looking for. A better approach might be to post some initial thoughts on your website/blog or social media platform and then invite people to let you know if they’re interested in more – set up a Google Alert to capture interest and then respond to the specific interest (and in the public domain on web, blog or social media so that others recognise you as a responder).  Being able to demonstrate your ability to provide effective response to challenges and questions set by others give you a real authenticity, and if you do it well then the beneficiaries of your response will sing your praises loud! (i.e. great digital marketing technique)


Always be learning – develop your style, knowledge, skills

Set out to learn from people online you recognise as doing a great job – whether that’s web content, blogging, use of social media, or others. If you can acknowledge and recognise excellence in another then you’re well on your way to learning and developing your own skills and style. So, set out to follow the best-of-the-best online and see how their style comes across; how they share knowledge and use various techniques to engage their readers. Use of great narrative, images and video are all key to engagement and so you’ll need to benchmark your current level of skills against those you identify as leading the way. Then set yourself some milestones to achieve in your own learning – this could be increased number of followers, increased responses to your content sharing on a blog or web, or you could use your Klout score as a measure of your development success. www.klout.com


Think win/win - create opportunities and collaboration

The use of digital technologies has presented so many excellent opportunities for us all to extend our business connections, collaborations and opportunities. A really great way to use the online communities is to extend invitations for increased collaborations and partnership working, and of course a lot of development work can be achieved through online collaboration (crowd-sourcing, crowd-funding, document sharing etc). These new ways of working will continue to evolve and offer our businesses many new opportunities in the years ahead and positive approaches are needed by those leading businesses. We need to view the potential for digital developments as a challenge, yes, but as a major opportunity too. If you don’t already know enough about digital collaboration then here’s a really useful article with 10 examples to start your thoughts flowing.


Sharpen and Publish – tips for thought leadership with edge

Have a reason to lead – be clear about why people should read/listen to you and what you offer them in though leadership, experience and knowledge – don’t be shy about your qualities and abilities either. Use the golden thread, use a guiding theme through your published thoughts to keep reminding people about your major passions, objectives and involvement in wider issues. Be simple, clear and powerful in using the golden thread approach – use it to bring your published pieces back to a central theme. This will provide readers/listeners with a clear sense of your direction and ambition.

Be a great Storyteller, develop your abilities to write and speak great narrative. Develop your own style with an ability to bring interest, context and inspiration into your work. Make the pieces truly enjoyable and engaging for the readers.


Start to Tailor to Fit – make sure you understand the audience for your thoughts and customise them accordingly so that readers can relate to your issues, challenges and approaches.

What are you, a Democrat or Dictator? Consider how to approach each piece in ways which will challenge readers to consider if they want to be told how to behave, or want to be included in a conversation. There’s room for both approaches.


Skills versus Will - know how to motivate others to develop

Motivating colleagues to share, engage and adopt new digital approaches to their work can be a major challenge for any business manager. We need to understand that there are still many people who are not engaged or motivated by the increasing digital changes being made in their everyday lives, let alone in the workplace. The skills needed for workers to utilise the potential of digital in our businesses may be easy to assess, plan and develop, but develop the ‘will’ and motivating people to embrace the technologies quite often is a harder piece of work. Understanding that people need to be a part of the process of decisions around new digital which affects their work can be just what’s needed here and so when we are developing our plans, or reviewing new platforms, devices and systems we need to bring our people along with us so that they are a part of the decision and can advise on their direct experiences of workflow, management, customer interaction, etc.

We also need to make the engagement with technology supportive, fun and empowering. What we already know from many of the recent developments in digital technology in the workplace, is that there has been a real fear of redundancy where digital systems could be seen to be taking over, but of course the reality has been different in that we still need highly motivated and skilled staff to make sense of the digital. Make sure your staff know this too!


Think Big – inspire creativity and innovation in your business

By being a digital leader in your business you’ll be constantly striving to learn from the best in your sector (and other sectors), from other business around the world, and from other thought leaders with perspectives on some of the challenges you forsee. This brings with it a major opportunities for you to consider innovative approaches within your business plans. Sometimes it’s easy to think that the use of digital technologies of a certain nature (hardware, software, devices, systems and processes) have become a limit to our future business plans and its essential for all business leaders to be prepared to be creative on this front and not allow technology in itself to become a barrier to growth and development. Regularly ask yourself this question – “if we had to start-up the business from scratch today what technology would we use” – and don’t be afraid to face up to the answers, to innovate with new approaches and to be creative around what technologies can offer. (and consider switching to more affordable short-term technologies if you know big change is the answer!).


Julie Hawker CEO Cosmic Ethical IT

December 2014


Julie Hawker is Chief Executive of Cosmic Ethical IT

Julie's strengths include strategic planning, project development, relationship and network development. She is a keen advocate of IT solutions which truly improve businesses and lives. Julie contributes in various training programmes and our consultancy service, particularly where organisations are seeking to develop leadership and their business models. She is well known for her passion for social enterprise and successful achievement in all our work.

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