Many people would say that it takes a combination of several traits to become a good leader. Some attributes, like discipline and intelligence, have been associated with strong leadership for centuries and are unlikely to lose their value.
However, as the world changes, leaders have to change with it. The digital age has impacted the way we choose our community leaders, as well as what we expect from them. By looking at how leaders and their roles have changed in the modern era, we can gain a better understanding of ourselves and our communities.
One of the most prominent ways that our leadership has evolved is by becoming more demographically diverse. As the country gets more diverse, it makes sense that our leaders should too. However, minority groups have historically been underrepresented in leadership positions, and still are today in many cases.
That said, over the past few decades there has been a shift toward more diversity in government leadership positions, for example. When it comes to ethnicity demographics, the Pew Research Center notes that since 2001 the number of Black Americans in Congress has increased from 36 to 59, while the numbers of Hispanic, Asian, and Native American representatives have all more than doubled.
As of 2021, America’s Congress is the most racially and ethnically diverse in our country’s history so far, with minorities making up 23% of all members.
Now that many companies have gone fully digital, leaders face digital obstacles. For example, many managers and executives are used to conducting in-person meetings. The advent of remote work often requires those leaders to navigate synchronous and asynchronous video meetings, phone calls, and digital check-ins via corporate social media. If employees have flexible schedules, this can really change meetings into a kind of tetris.
Another challenge facing digital-age leaders is the constant stream of information that people face today. Digital age leaders must be able to sort out trustworthy information and help their community members to do the same, while also guiding them away from misleading or inaccurate claims.
The digital age doesn’t just mean new challenges. It offers lots of advantages that leaders of the past did not have. Technology allows modern leaders to communicate more effectively and reach a broader audience. The modern world is fast-paced and many people run on tight schedules. Streaming technologies can allow community members to come together for worship, business, or just for fun even when they don’t have the time or ability to physically congregate.
From the government to the private sector, people in leadership positions are utilizing new technology to stay in touch with community members, distribute information, and more efficiently conduct their business.
Another major consideration for leaders in the digital age are the social values associated with the modern world, and how those values differ from the past. Having a good understanding of a community’s values is crucial for effective leadership, and seeing how values have changed can help us understand how communities grow.
Most recently, family preservation and self-reliance have emerged as two top values in our society. This was not always the case, but significant changes in society and the advent of the pandemic have influenced these shifts.
As values change and evolve, leaders must continue to adapt to inspire and relate to people in the modern world.
The digital age hasn’t just changed our values, it has also changed our conception of what a community is. In the past, communities were thought to be hyperlocal, and leaders often didn’t reach beyond their own area.
In the modern era, these communities are no longer defined by physical proximity. By reaching more people through methods like live streaming, small communities can grow their membership quickly and spread their message without the need to travel or conduct expensive outreach. Technology allows these leaders to form connections across states and continents without ever leaving the comfort of their own home or office.
Traits of Effective Leaders in the Modern Day
Thanks to the rapid evolution of technology and the explosion of the remote workforce, being a leader in the modern-day requires a few new traits, in addition to some of the more familiar standbys. Some of the attributes you might find in a successful modern leader today could include:
- Technological literacy: With remote workforces, video meetings, digital congregations, and school courses alike being held online, being comfortable navigating the nuances of various types of technology is a must.
- Streaming etiquette: Hand-in-hand with video meetings and virtual gatherings is the need for a firm understanding of how to conduct yourself professionally and avoid common mistakes.
- Cultural sensitivity: Being aware of and respecting cultural differences is critical as a leader, whether you’re managing a fully remote team with members across the globe, or working with a more close-knit group in-house.
- Public speaking and general communication: Whether you’re communicating one-on-one or speaking to a group, you will want to make sure that you’re able to clearly and directly articulate relevant points, goals, and discussion items in a public setting. This might take some practice, but it’s worth the effort since communication is so critical.
- Organization and vision: An effective leader will not only have a powerful and inspiring vision, but they will be able to organize and delegate the efforts necessary to help achieve these goals.
Digital mediums have allowed for greater reach and participation for all types of leaders and organizations. As growth in these areas continues, so too does the opportunity to expand leadership goals.