The Most Important Leadership Belief in the Digital Revolution
Since returning to the Waikato from California 1,374 days ago, the most frequent conversation I've had with local and national business owners is around deeply understanding their users.
Whether their 'users' are internal teams interacting with their IT systems and infrastructure, or 'users' being the external people interacting with their product, service, or brand, it all boils down to one thing.
And while they're all individuals and uniquely fascinating, I want to treat them like a proper noun...deserving a capital P.
Associations, corporations, SMEs, startups, cities, communities, and families are all made up of People. That is the common denominator.
People have thoughts, feelings, needs. People think logically, illogically, emotionally or have varying degrees of psychopathy. Healthy or not, they're still your People. And it doesn't matter whether they report to you, work with you, click 'like' on your Facebook page, or pass you in the street.
When it comes to business, your success revolves around your ability to deeply understand those People. The best leaders I know, aren't the ones that tweet, post, or IG about themselves all the time.
They passionately promote and champion their People.
They engage and enable them through deeply understanding their needs, then creating a clear vision, ambition, strategy, and delivering on those needs...even as they change.
They build a business around creating delightful experiences for their People.
And the most successful leaders entering the digital revolution use technology as a tool to make their People's lives easier, faster, simpler and better. But they can't do this without first deeply understanding them.
As a leader in the technology sector, this is where I talk about "big data" and user insights. As much as I love online tools to analyse user behaviour and personas, we must approach this as if we're painting a picture. Big data starts sketching out an image, but the context and colour comes from "thick data". Thick data captures People’s emotions, stories, and models of their world.
It considers interaction, engagement, and user journeys which are all related to context and emotion; culture, background, and the diverse makeup of those People.
So, as we delve deeper into the digital age, the most important leadership trait is to understand that
what is measurable by 1's and 0's, isn't the same as what is truly valuable.
Over the last year, I've had the pleasure of working with a handful of incredible leaders who take the care, effort, and time to consider their People.
It has been a delight to find People who care just as deeply as I do about the 'experience', and where my leadership has been honed and polished into something I can be proud of.
As leaders, if we don't keep People at the very centre of our present, we will lose ourselves in this digital future.
The business and pictures we paint will simply be a shell. A website filled with empty words, an IG account that is an echo, and a business that represents and serves only you.
And so the questions I urge you to reflect upon include:
As a leader, what do you represent that is worth following?
Are you only representing yourself, your company, your brand?
Or are you representing your People? Those incredible, fascinating, complex, and colourful individuals who want to be delighted, who want to follow a leader and/or brand that deserves a place in their minds and hearts. Who understands what it's like to be them and what they care about.
Leadership doesn't exist in a silo. It exists in the hearts of those willing to serve others; to deeply connect with the minds and hearts of other People, and earn the right to be followed.