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Leading with Heart in the Age of Technology: Why People Still Matter More Than Tech

I recently went to see The Boys in the Boat movie and it really hit the heart of something that I haven't stopped thinking about since.... and that is the notion of people. teams, and synergy. See, the premise of this movie is based on a true story of how some underdog students from the University of Washington were picked to be in a Junior Varsity rowing team...then having to compete and give UW a win for not just national championship but also believing in the JV squad to compete in the Olympics! It was a Good Feel type movie of sports victory and ultimately underdog to champions story...but I also couldn't help but think the underlying tone that it takes people, these young men, to come together and push themselves to the limit to win...that it doesn't take the shiniest and fanciest row boat with the best paddles to win, it takes the tenacity and ambition of each member alone then together to push through and ultimately face the hardest teams in the league, then world, and still come out champions. It also showed how a strong coach, leading the team, (consider this person in business the VP) along with a lead team member on the row boat shouting directions, called a the coxswain, to the racers as they are in the midst of racing. Consider this role maybe a director or senior level manager in the analogy. Providing motivation and strategic direction


This made me think of my career as I have been the team member and also the leader in the digital world for quite some time, that it made me think...you know technology and the love of it is great...we need it...it brings us better capabilities and functionality...but in that process we cannot forget....our people....our row boats of A.I., Machine Learning, Automation etc...are beautiful...should work, don't get me wrong...but remember we still need to have strong rowers with the coxswain in our row boats with strong paddles to beat our competing row teams.... below I provide what I think are the modern essentials of digital leadership in this context...




In today's digital era, leadership has evolved, especially in the context of digital strategy. It's not just about mastering the latest technological advancements or analyzing data; it's about recognizing the essence of digital innovation - people. In this blog, we'll delve into the realm of digital strategy leadership and explore why leaders should consistently prioritize people before technology.



The Digital Revolution and Its Temptations

The digital revolution has ushered in a dazzling array of technologies, from artificial intelligence to blockchain, transforming the way we conduct business, connect, and navigate our lives. These innovations are undeniably powerful, and it's easy to become entranced by the allure of technology. However, as digital strategy leaders, it's essential to remember that technology, while transformative, is simply a tool. It's the individuals who harness these tools who genuinely drive change.


The Essence of Digital Strategy Leadership

At the core of digital strategy leadership lies the understanding that it's the individuals - both within your organization and your target audience - who propel your success. Here's why placing people at the forefront is not merely a philosophy but a vital requirement:


1. Connection Over Data Points

In the digital realm, it's straightforward to become data-centric, focusing solely on numbers and metrics. Nevertheless, authentic digital strategy leadership emphasizes human connections above all else. Behind every data point lies a real person with genuine needs, desires, and pain points. By prioritizing these human connections, you can craft strategies that resonate on a profound level.


2. Empathy: The Cornerstone of Effective Leadership

Empathy is a superpower in the world of digital strategy leadership. Understanding the challenges, aspirations, and frustrations of your team and your audience can lead to more pertinent, engaging, and successful campaigns. When your team feels heard and understood, they're more likely to go the extra mile.


3. User-Centered Design Is Non-Negotiable

Innovation in the digital sphere frequently commences with user-centered design. When you place individuals at the forefront of your digital strategy, you're more likely to create products and services that genuinely cater to their needs. Whether it's a website, app, or digital marketing campaign, prioritize user-centered design as your guiding principle.


4. The Power of Storytelling

Humans are inherently drawn to storytelling. It's how we establish connections, acquire knowledge, and make sense of the world. Digital strategy leaders who prioritize people comprehend the significance of narrating authentic and compelling stories that resonate with their audience. Technology can amplify these stories, but it's the narrative that truly captivates.


5. Employee Engagement Leads to Innovation

Your team represents your most valuable asset. When leaders prioritize individuals, they foster an environment where employees feel valued, supported, and empowered. This sense of belonging and responsibility can lead to innovative ideas that technology alone cannot replicate.


The Balance Between Tech and Heart

It's important to emphasize that technology is not the adversary; it's a potent ally. Digital strategy leaders should strike a balance between leveraging technology to enhance their strategies while preserving the human touch. Here are some practical approaches to achieve this equilibrium:


1. Cultivate a Culture of Empathy

Encourage your team to understand and empathize with the end-users. Conduct user research, hold empathy workshops, and nurture a culture that esteems understanding over assumptions.


2. Listen Actively to Feedback

Both your team and your audience possess valuable insights. Listen attentively to their feedback, concerns, and suggestions. Integrate this feedback into your strategies, demonstrating your appreciation for their input.


3. Prioritize Employee Well-being

An overburdened team cannot effectively lead digital strategies. Prioritize your team's well-being, ensure a healthy work-life balance, and cultivate a supportive environment conducive to their growth.


4. Authenticity Over Perfection

In the era of social media, authenticity holds immense value. Be genuine, transparent, and candid in your digital pursuits. Individuals connect more with authentic, imperfect brands than with polished, impersonal ones.


Conclusion: Leadership with a Human Touch

In today's digital age, one thing remains unchanging: the imperative to prioritize people first. True digital strategy leadership acknowledges that technology serves as a means to an end, and that end revolves around connecting with and serving individuals more effectively. By accentuating human connections, empathy, and user-centered design, digital strategy leaders can navigate the digital era with sincerity, heart, and triumph. Always remember, in the world of digital strategy, it's people first, technology second - without exception.


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