Enterprise digital leaders face a tough task in leading the cultural and technological changes necessary to spur on digital transformation. According to some of the preeminent researchers on digital transformation, a study of more than 500 chief digital officers (CDOs) shows that their success boils down to two major leadership traits: competence and credibility.
In a piece this week for MIT Sloan Management Review, Michael Wade and Nikolaus Obwegeser of the IMD Global Center for Digital Business Transformation say that on the one hand, CDOs need to bring to the table the right combination of digital knowledge, skills, and experience to understand the interaction between technology and the business. That’s competence. On the other hand, the leader also needs the business chops and persuasiveness to convince the organization en masse that they can achieve the digital goals they’ve set out for the business. That’s credibility.
Obviously the ideal CDO would have both in spades, but most candidates are likely to be stronger in one compared to the other. They write:
Striking the right competence-credibility balance depends largely on how the role of the CDO is defined in a particular company. Indeed, we found that CDO roles and responsibilities differ widely among organizations. At one extreme were those that placed an emphasis on tactical areas like digital marketing or technology. At the other end were roles that described a cross-functional and rather ambiguous focus on digital strategy and transformation. Although external candidates can bring critical digital competence and experience to organizations seeking a better digital footing, they may struggle to build credibility for necessary organizational change.