Over the past decade the world propelled like a rocket ship into the digital age. Everything we do, from purchasing products and services, to working from home, we do through technology. Smartphones and devices have become extensions of our body. Data has become an asset for organizations, and an improved digital customer experience is one of the best ways to differentiate products and services. Experience is the new currency.

Yet with all the wonderful opportunities the digital revolution brings, it also brings challenges. Many organizations struggle to transform their business to a digital model, and the adoption of Big Data and AI (Artificial Intelligence) continues to be a major challenge. 

To confront these challenges and opportunities, we need leaders with the right skills. Here are 3 critical skills required for epic leadership in the digital age:

  • 1. Business Imagination – Often the biggest roadblock to digital success is business imagination. As an example, most data analytics projects fail because companies neglect to connect the analytics to business value. It’s not enough to focus only on analytics output, tools, and technologies. Leaders must find ways for human intelligence and machine intelligence to work together. As I learned from Professor Ravi Bapna in the Carlson Executive Education program, “The future belongs to those (individuals, leaders, business units, societies, countries) that optimize the man-machine duality!”.

“It’s not enough to focus only on analytics output, tools, and technologies. Leaders must find ways for human intelligence and machine intelligence to work together”

  • 2. Empathy – Empathy is one of the pillars of emotional intelligence and when it comes to business, empathy is often misunderstood. I once had a professor in business school tell me empathy was not important for business success. That statement couldn’t be further from the truth. Today, employees feel high pressure to deliver. This stress increased tenfold with the effects of the pandemic.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Behind the financial targets and technologies, companies are made up of people. People are emotional beings who need to feel understood and cared for by their leaders. Performance, wellbeing, and results improve when leaders treat employees with empathy.  Empathy is good for business, and it is critical in the digital age.

  • 3. Digital Savviness – Gone are the days when IT was an afterthought. Technology now has a seat at the table. Digital leaders must have a strong understanding of technology. They don’t need to know how to write code, but they need to have digital savviness. In a recent study conducted by MIT Sloan Management Review, they found that “large enterprises with digitally savvy executive teams outperformed comparable companies without such teams by more than 48% based on revenue growth and valuation”.


The digital age is here, and organizations need leaders with the right skills. Business imagination, empathy and digital savviness are three critical skills for today’s leaders. With these skills, leaders can take advantage of opportunities to reimagine their business and thrive in the digital age. 

About the Author: Mike MacIsaac is an IT program delivery consultant providing leadership for large business driven initiatives.