With the increasing impact of disruptive technologies, rapidly changing competitive environments, and a growing maturity and integration of digital into ‘business as usual’, organisational leadership itself needs to adapt to a brave new business world.

Are we seeing the emergence of a new type of leader that brings together a powerful combination of skills to adeptly navigate the rapidly evolving and shifting technological landscape?

The Effective Leadership in the Digital Age research set out to answer one key question: what does it mean to be a ‘digital leader’ in the context of digital transformation? Written by experienced blogger, writer and consultant Neil Perkin, the report aims to distill some of the key shifts in leadership qualities, attributes and techniques, providing a multidimensional framework for effective digital leadership.

Key findings

  • While the large majority of survey respondents believed that it was ‘very important’ for leaders to be technology literate in the modern business environment, far fewer believed that the level of literacy among their own leadership was strong.
  • Leaders now need to draw from a wider set of leadership styles, and open up to increasingly take on the role of collaborator or co-creator.
  • The ‘full stack’ digital leaders are emerging, who can effectively draw value from large amounts of data, yet combine this with creative thinking and inspiring visions.
  • As more businesses mature in digital capability, the ownership of digital at board level and in the organisation is shifting. Not only are a wider set of board members more actively involved and engaged than ever in digital, but new roles are actively re-shaping organisations at the highest level.
  • Several key characteristics, focused on operational orientation, leadership qualities and ways of working, are critical for effective digital leaders. These include being ruthlessly customer-centric, visionary, adaptive and agile, commercial, data-driven, open, curious and innovative.


Our methodology involved three main phases:

  • Phase 1: A series of in-depth interviews (15 interviews in total) with a range of C-suite and senior management, including senior digital and non-digital marketers and ecommerce leads across different sectors and markets. This provided insight into key themes, challenges and opportunities in modern leadership.
  • Phase 2: Desk research to identify relevant issues, examples and models.
  • Phase 3: An online survey (439 respondents) of relevant senior staff across a range of organisations and sectors designed to better quantify feedback.

Digital Transformation

This research is part of a series of reports Econsultancy is producing on the topic of digital transformation.

Digital is changing faster and more profoundly than anyone could have predicted. Doing what you’ve always done is no longer an option.

The specialist digital transformation practice within Econsultancy  helps companies accelerate their journeys to digital excellence. We address the four vectors of change:

  • Your strategy – where should you be going with digital?
  • Your people – what teams, talent and skills do you need to get there?
  • Your processes – how should you change the way you work?
  • Your technologies – what platforms, software and data strategy will serve you best?

Talk to us about an initial, no-cost consultation. We’ll discuss your toughest challenges, outline our methodology and come back with a proposal.

Contact our Digital Transformation Team on transformation@econsultancy.com or call

  • EMEA: +44 (0)20 7269 1450
  • Americas: +1 212 971 0630
  • APAC: +65 6653 1911