Jeroen Hoencamp, CEO of Vodafone UK, says digital leadership is transforming the nature of the chief executive’s role as surely as digital technology is transforming the traditional office
As the CEO of Vodafone UK, I believe my job – and that of any modern CEO – is to ‘empower’ my team. As business leaders, it is imperative that we understand how the workplace is changing in this fast-paced, technologically driven world, and how we can stay ahead of the curve by equipping employees with the tools they need to succeed.
So what does it take to become a truly modern chief executive? It means taking advantage of the opportunities that today’s digital revolution offers and, by doing so, improving business performance and employee engagement. It means digital leadership.
Digital leadership means changing the way we work
Businesses need to understand the demands of today’s hyper-connected workforce and be open to adopting new, more flexible ways of working. Ubiquitous connectivity, 4G, and the proliferation of mobile devices have transformed how we communicate.
At Vodafone, we have created a workplace culture that embodies this new approach. From the ‘hardware’ of open-plan offices, hot-desking for all and secure technology that enables staff to access information from any location, to the ‘software’ of open discussions, our Better Ways of Working approach is all about harnessing the collective power of our people.
Most importantly we do not measure our employees by time spent at their desk but by output and performance. This approach is what drives a successful business in today’s digital landscape.
Understanding digital transformation
Recent research by Vodafone found that nine out of 10 business leaders believe digital technology is essential to business success and 70 per cent of consumers expect to be able to reach a company through a variety of different channels (telephone, retail, email, web chat or online forums) to purchase a product or service.
Therefore it’s important that business leaders offer digital leadership, understanding how the technology can be applied across the organisation’s operations, helping to drive agility and enabling businesses to adapt quickly.
Collaboration and flexibility
With continued globalisation comes the spread of workforces across different locations and timezones. It’s key that the lines of communication remain as open, reliable and easily accessible as when everyone is sitting together in a shared office.
High-speed broadband networks and digital technologies enable employees to transcend the office space, collaborating, working more productively and providing better service to customers and suppliers.
Ensuring you have the knowledge and skills to be an effective chief executive is a journey of continuous learning. To work your way to the top of an organisation you have to be willing to push yourself out of your comfort zone by switching departments, working abroad and volunteering for ‘that impossible assignment’. Mastering digital leadership will enable you do that more effectively.
As technology continues to revolutionise the way we do business, it is important not to forget what a business actually is – a network of people. Businesses are funded by people, operated by people and sell to people.
As a leader, it’s critically important to drive a culture where individuals are valued, and to ensure employees are equipped with the tools and training they need to keep up with a dynamic environment.
To sum up, the growth of digital technology will continue to impact how we work, how we deliver best customer service and how organisations are led. It makes it all the more vital that future leaders show digital leadership.
While traditional traits such as passion, confidence, experience and the ability to motivate employees remain important, an effective chief executive in today’s digital world is one who seizes new challenges and experiences and recognises opportunities to innovate and be more competitive.
Jeroen Hoencamp is CEO of Vodafone UK
Read more insights from FTSE 100 CEOs in the Vodafone Perspective series ‘Leading the Way – Exploring Modern CEO Leadership’ (opens PDF)