The relationship between leadership and technology is a topic that has not been fully explored. While it is crystal clear that technology can affect how leaders manage teams and whether they get the best out of each of the individuals in the team. It is not as clear whether a leader can impact the tech a firm uses and how. The argument presented here is that this relationship will be a two-way street, and the leader of an organization will affect and determine to a large extent what technology is adopted, and the adaptation of the various tech choices will then affect how management can be carried out and how leadership occurs.
Furthermore, all this will happen in a business atmosphere that is under constant social scrutiny, which happens on the internet. Business today operates on the internet and today’s leaders are expected to operate within this technologically advanced environment, integrating what they do with the right technology, the aim being to ensure buy-in from staff while managing a profitable organization. Technology and its uses in business have been at the forefront of recent developments, but not all businesses will adopt the most recent tech, and this will be based on the leadership of these businesses; it’s not always just a financial decision, but also based on the reader’s understanding of the tech and its uses.
There will also be very different sectors, and each will use technology according to their needs and the requirements of their industry or business sector. For example, a political leader may very well see technology differently from the manner in which a business leader views technology. Political leaders are generally more fearful of technology as it allows more people access to information and opens the political party and its leader up to increased criticism from voters. It is, however, possibly mistrust of the tech that is being used and the fear of voter reprisals that makes for the uptake and implementation of technology by political leaders something that requires more debate than for the modern businessperson. Business leaders, in contrast to this, are generally much more accepting of technology and what it brings to the party, or rather how it can affect their bottom line, increasing productivity and profits.
Technology for business has been the biggest change agent over the last decade or more and while technology has served to change the way business is done, it has also changed the manner in which businesses are led and managed.
More recently, business leadership and management have come under immense pressure as remote and hybrid ways of work have come to the fore after the recent pandemic. This has in effect forced discussion around leadership and technology in that businesses were forced to think outside the box; it was those who were able to most cogently communicate with their remote teams that had the most success.
The Remote Leader
Automating management or leadership has been a trending debate for a while in management and business circles. Using artificial intelligence systems to rate and monitor staff performance, keep updated on progress as well coaching and feedback can all be automated.
The paramount point to remember here is that the technology or automated systems will not improve the leader’s communication skills. It is these skills that will essentially be key to getting people and employees to follow and to meet the objectives of the business. Technology for remote leadership must be seen as a tool that will only work as well as the leader is able to implement it. There are also some key aspects of leadership that will be required to underpin any technology that is accepted as a means to improve the business:
The manner in which employees, suppliers, and even new business are now able to communicate with your business, is varied and you need to be able to provide these depending on which it is your stakeholders will be best using, i.e., text, chat rooms and forums, as well as a customer service center.
Have Clear Objectives For the Team:
To ensure that you don’t fall into the micromanagement trap, ensure that you have set staff and teams a clear objective to be able to execute without constant communication and monitoring from the leader.
As the motto says, a good leader is a good listener. Regardless of which channels you are using, paying attention and be sure to be genuine.
Remote communication can be daunting for some, and therefore the person initiating remote work needs to build trust.
These are the aspects of a good leader that technology will enhance. Using the best remote communication and the latest advancements in business technology will not somehow make a bad leader or a bad communicator into a good one.
Here are some of the negative aspects of remote communication or leadership.
Lack of Tone in Communication:
Leading a team via email and virtual meetings can be one of the most difficult things for those who are not well-versed in these processes. It is difficult to read a tone or any emotion from an email, and in many cases, the reader overthinks the message and reads a tone into it that just isn’t there. Communication thus needs to be as clear as possible and unambiguous, to say the least.
The ability to constantly send messages, either via mobile or email, invite people to the most pointless of virtual meetings, and generally, miss-use technology can be distracting. This can be incredibly unproductive for workers and staff, leading to lower morale and reduced productivity.
The availability of technology that is always with you, means that the leader is never ‘off’. The fact that an email, text, or voice message can be sent at any time for any reason, means that in some cases there has been a situation where the leader is pestered outside the office. You see it’s virtual and almost makes it easier to ask the questions that many staff would have been confident to solve in the office.
Remote working or hybrid working has been an ever-growing trend that was cemented as a way of work for the future during the pandemic. The only way that this was made possible was through using technology for communicating, meeting, and sharing information.
It has to be remembered and as has been shown here, that tech will not make for a good remote workforce or good remote leadership of itself. Technology is but a mechanism for communication, and it is the communication that must be precise, professional, and with a purpose, if you are to lead a remote team to success.
The Ever-Present Leader
Although technology can work to make the leader remote, it has also been used in recent times especially to make the leader or manager more present. It is generally managers rather than leaders who fall into this trap, and it is common to trap. This happens whereby technology is instituted to monitor and assist remote workers, only to have it then be used to keep a constant eye on employees. Micromanaging via technology is a common mistake that is made. Just because the technology exists, doesn’t mean that it should be used to watch workers and employees like a hawk.
Micromanagement is one of the ultimate worst management styles or techniques. It is counterintuitive and will only lead to more problems than its worth. The leader who tries to be in absolute control of everything that their staff do is a leader that is bound to fail. The overall aim of micromanagement might be seen as positive for the business, in that knowing what staff is doing all the time is a surefire way not to waste time and money. However, trying to control everything that staff is doing will mean that the leader or manager will lose track of the bigger picture.
Inappropriate social posting is one of the downsides of the uptake in technology. Understanding social media and online etiquette are one of the main stumbling blocks towards good leadership. The use of social media and social networking platforms has become more business-oriented than ever before. Issues have arisen when staff and leaders are on similar or even the same platforms and are able to interact or share profiles. There are some forms of social networking and posts on social media that are not intended for office or colleagues and the difficulty is that leaders too have lives and are social beings.
What social media has done is to remove the leader from the rest of the team in that they cannot afford to let their guard down at any time. The standards for leadership have been raised and, in some cases, unnecessarily so.
Leadership Decisions Around Technology – Thinking It Through
It is common knowledge in business that if the leader is a technophobe, it will be almost impossible to get the organization to move into the modern age. It is generally the leader of an organization or enterprise that is the initiator for tech improvements.
We are thus currently in a time when business leaders need to be sure of the decisions they make around technology and are expected to understand and know the benefits, both economic, societal, and human of the integration of technology into the business as well as how it will be used if it is accepted as a way forward. A great example of how even the modern MBA has changed to ensure this, is Suffolk’s Online MBA Prepares Future Thought Leaders. It is an authority in your specific business field, and there is no way that this can happen without truly embracing the available appropriate technology.
Being able to plot a way through some of the uncertainty of modern business in order to lead in your field will require a leader who is able to both take risks, but also be aware of the differences that will make their company great. It is a thought process that can be improved and assisted with the use of technology.
One of the key decisions that will be made by the modern leader will be the type, level, and timing of any technology uptake and usage. It is proven that technology is saturating modern society, and as such decisions around technology, i.e., to stay off social media, or not to use the latest cloud computing, will have to be taken by a leader who knows the context. These are decisions that cannot be taken lightly and require a leader to have done their due diligence and research as to the type of technology that is being used by others in the sector, those in the supply chain, as well as clients and customers.
Adopting technology also has a human consideration in that as artificial intelligence gains ground in society and business, there is a widespread fear among workers as to them being replaced by technology. It is a progressive leader who will be able to navigate this space and ensure that the technology adapted is good for both the business and those who have a stake in the business as well. The human consideration is one that is often neglected as it cannot be quantified on the balance sheet.
Leadership and technology are intrinsically linked, in that the business leader is expected to be the person who makes the final decisions as to the manner in which tech is incorporated into the business and which aspects of the current available technology will be used. This article has shown that the integration of technology and leadership is not as seamless or as simple as it seems. There are numerous decisions to be made as to what technology should be adapted. Then, the most pressing leadership and management decisions will be made on how the available and selected tech will be utilized and why.
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