Join Charlene Li for an in-depth discussion in this video Engage to transform, part of Charlene Li on Digital Leadership.
- In your journey to become a digital leader, one of the most difficult things you'll have to learn how to do is how to engage. To engage with the people who are following you as a leader. That's because engagement changes not only what people are engaging with you, but also how you feel about yourself, and the nature of that relationship that you have with followers. There are three major ways where engagement, especially in the digital era, is really changing how you become and show up as a leader. The first one is really about distance, and in particular, power distance.
In traditional organizations before the digital age, there was this distance between where you sat as a leader and wherever that follower is, the person who reports to you. There might be layers within a hierarchy, but what happens inside a digital space is that that transparency, that access, that openness actually breaks down that power distance and brings people closer to you. In many ways, leaders are feeling very comfortable with that distance because it gives them this sort of cushion between when somebody interacts with them and when they have to actually respond and come up with a particular goal that we want people to reach, a particular request that you want people to make.
But with that power distance decreased, it becomes much more familiar and that relationship changes, and that is a significant change that many leaders have to deal with. A second way that engagement is different in the digital space is that the direction of that engagement changes. In traditional leadership, it's very hierarchical, it's top-down, you as a leader initiate things mostly. Nobody would ever think to knock on your door and say, hey, I need to talk to you about something. That just isn't done.
But in digital, anyone at all levels throughout the organization and outside the organization can initiate that engagement, and in many ways that can feel very challenging to you as a leader. What are you doing strolling up to my door, asking me a question, this audacious question? Nobody ever dared to ask me that before. And the fact that this is being done in public and that everyone is waiting and watching to see how you respond. The third area where engagement is different is around frequency, it is a 24/7, always on, everything is happening around you, and the expectations in some ways can be set that you as a leader is going to know everything that's going on and have the ability to respond to everything.
And the key here is to understand what kind of expectations will you set about what you will engage in? Because frankly, it is impossible, absolutely impossible to engage with everyone on everything that people want you to. The results of all of this is that what we've seen in our research is that engagement is the hardest thing for a leader to master in the digital space, and it is one thing that in particular I think you as a leader in this digital space are going to have to really comes to terms with, in terms of understanding what will that engagement look like? And the reality is, every single leader is going to have a different level of comfort and need to engage.
Some leaders want to get right into the middle of things, that's the kind of leader they are, and also the type of goals and objectives that they have set for themselves that will require that they have that deep, digital, frequent engagement. Other types of leaders, because of their goals and the way that they lead, will be able to sit back a little bit further, preserve more of that power distance. The key for you to figure out is what kind of engagement strategy is going to work for you as a person, but also very importantly, help you achieve the objectives that you have set forth for yourself as a leader of your organization.
In this course, she explains the three steps for extending leadership into the digital space: listening, sharing, and engaging. With her tips, you can transform your professional relationships with employees, peers, and influencers. At the end of each chapter, she provides a list of questions to help you get started on your next step.
- Listening at scale
- Scanning your environment
- Choosing the right type of engagement
- Cultivating followers