4 behaviours that make a Digital Leader

Robin Knowles

Written by Robin Knowles, CEO, Digital Leaders

What makes a digital leader? This is a big question to start 2020 with, and one which I shall look at through the lens of the Digital Leaders programme.

What is the link between the work we do – both through our online content, and through our face-to-face programme – and the development of behaviours that make someone a digital leader? We talked to our Digital Leaders’ Advisory Board and partners to find out.

We have concluded that there are four behaviours that make you a digital leader. 


To achieve digital transformation, a digital leader must act. Getting started and knowing where to begin is often the hardest part, but digital leaders know that the digital world is not going to wait for you. 

Digital leaders are doers and take calculated risks. They are proactive, agile and responsive to the challenges that come their way. It is simple to talk about action, but it is far harder to ensure you make the jump to execution. 

The good news is, that by making that jump, you are taking the first step towards becoming a digital leader and are better able to meet the challenges and opportunities of the digital world.


If you are doing great work in digital transformation, whichever sector or role you are leading in, then you have a responsibility as a digital leader to communicate this to the wider world and not just to become famous for doing so.

Digital leaders who are delivering truly inspirational transformation and who share their progress through writing and speaking are not motivated by ego, but by appreciation of the importance of the spread of ideas.

Digital Leaders, by being cross-sector and free at the point of use, is a great example of a forum that showcases this good practice. Participants are able to communicate their transformation journeys to a wider audience, who can then take away these lessons and use them in other sectors. Communicating your success will resonate with other leaders who are able to use your expertise to develop their own organisations in an informed and intelligent way. 

Communication will help ensure your work is valued within your own profession and sector, but also that you achieve external recognition of your innovation in a much wider sphere.

However, communicating your success and failures is not a one-way street. Our third behaviour involves sharing and collaborating on digital transformation, beyond what can be conveyed in an article or press release.


In the past, ‘competitive advantages’ were closely guarded secrets, beneficial assets that would be hidden away from competitors and other organisations within the sector. However, digital leaders now understand that the technological solutions and social network needed to succeed requires open, two-way collaboration. The key to collaborating effectively is trust. Digital leaders share their knowledge and experience as they gain it, and trust others to do the same. They build better solutions by collaborating with others.

This is perhaps a difficult concept for older readers, as in the past sharing was seen as a slightly artificial process, designed to communicate strength and hide weakness. However, open collaboration brings tangible rewards through the gaining of insight you might not otherwise have had. 

Digital leaders are brave, and share their expertise first. Yes your competitors may take short-term advantage of you, but ultimately, they will discover that this negative behaviour is incompatible with a collaborative digital world. 

Many of the Digital Leaders community find a platform to share their ideas at our events. To date, the process has almost invariably been a positive one, and negative behaviour has always been called out by other participants. It is possible to sit on our platform and merely ‘take’ from those around you, but the real richness begins when you share, and are challenged and questioned on your approaches to issues. 


Being open to new ideas from wherever they come, getting out of your “bubble” and discovering your “unknown unknowns”,  is where the real process of learning begins. 

The most successful digital leaders are able to learn from a wide variety of people and situations. They reject old-fashioned ideas about learning being college-based, they read a great deal and they look to find ways for what they have learnt to apply to their own situations. 

Learning from others is at the heart of what we do on the Digital Leaders platform. Whether reading our daily blogs, joining a webinar, attending a salon, or taking part in one of our four main conferences, digital leaders learn from a wide variety of cross-sector experts and peers. They can then use what they have learnt to make a real difference in their own organisations. 

None of this process is easy, but the Digital Leaders programme facilitates and encourages these four behaviours as the basis of digital leadership. If you have not yet taken advantage of what we do, please do join us in 2020. We are here to help you to complete your own personal transformation into a digital leader. 

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