Leadership Branding: Company Culture and Leadership in the Digital Age

Digital media is changing everything. E-mail, instant messaging and news-feed result in a constant flow of information and thus in an overflow of input.  Big Data and social media make organizations and people more and more transparent to the outside. Drivers of company strategy have to ask themselves whether they are up to the challenges the new digital age brings. For instance, how can I alleviate the increasing pressure that new media puts on employees and the company? And most of all, what is a professional image in digital media – for the company, on the one hand, and for the individual on the other – and how can I link organization and individual in a way that makes sense?

A New Generation

We can learn a lot from the Digital Natives; they never fail to show elegant sensitivity in the way they present themselves and they are also unbeatable in the way they handle digital formats. This generation has grown up with new media and has been shaped by it: uncomplicated sharing, agreements that are less binding, knowledge constantly at their fingertips, and omnipresence in the media. They have a very particular strategy when it comes to handling this overflow of information: They take a more superficial attitude to things, and focus initially on large currents of influence. That’s why older generations often criticize them for being unreliable and doubt their capability to listen in a concentrated way. But Digital Natives also value serious reliability and look for anchors. And we need this new generation and their capabilities on the job market. So, we need to respond to their needs and to offer them different triggers: What inspires them is unconventional, networked thinking and a stronger feel-good factor. Work should be fun. As an employer I have to think hard about how I can fill these people with enthusiasm about my idea of what it means to be an entrepreneur.

New Concept of the Organization

Rigid hierarchies, in my opinion, were never any good as a management tool. For many with poor management skills, they were useful to hide behind. But Digital Natives are not prepared simply to swallow orders and get on with it. They have to understand the background to everything. Most companies have now accepted that there has to be a change of mindset. The leadership culture (workforce) is often ahead of the company culture (organization) because sometimes it’s possible in individual departments to practice autonomously a different leadership style to the one typical in the company as a whole. But if you want to win and retain Digital Natives as employees and customers in the long term, you will have to think in new formats (e.g. global think tank) and to develop appropriate working times and formats (e.g. time-based and place-based working).

CEO and Manager: Inspiring Brand

While hierarchies are fading into the mist, leadership is becoming ever more important. Digitalization pushes us further apart, but at the same time it connects us like never before. What matters is the right mixture of the concrete and the virtual. The different generations have a lot to learn from one another and stand to benefit by complementing each other. People remain the key asset for company success in the Digital Age. So, a good leader has to be able to inspire enthusiasm for the mission and vision in all the target groups of their organization (employees, business partners, customers, etc.) regardless of age, and bring together the strengths of each individual in such a way that they make up a completed puzzle – the holistic goal. To achieve this kind of organizational culture, a manager must have a definite identity. You as leader must establish yourself like a brand, because it is only brands that achieve recognition and draw an enthusiastic following.


Photo Credit: Nicolai Berntsen via Unsplash

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