Ade McCormack
Ade McCormack
Digital Readiness Institute

Ade McCormack is a former technologist who today advises leaders on transformational matters. Most recently, he has established the Centre for Leadership and Disruption Readiness to help organisations and societies adapt to an unknowable future.( .

He has written for both CIO magazine and the Financial Times as a columnist focusing on digital age leadership. His experience extends to around four decades and forty countries, across many sectors. 

Ade has written a number of books, including Biz 4.0: An anthropological blueprint for business in the digital age. He has also lectured at MIT Sloan School of Management on digital leadership and is an associate at the Møller Institute, University of Cambridge.

By Ade McCormack, Digital Strategist

This article is by Featured Blogger Ade McCormack from his Linkedin page. Republished with the author’s permission.

Let’s first take stock. Here are three signs that your leadership style is no longer fit for purpose:

  • You enjoy the sensation of your edicts cascading down the steep hierarchy of the org chart. You feel you are uniquely placed to make the big decisions, and so are fully signed up to the ‘command and control’ leadership model.
  • Despite the clear signs that you are leading the organisation onto rocky ground, you insist on sticking to the strategy, as defined by you and your ‘best and brightest’ CxO colleagues.
  • Your primary, and most frequently used, leadership tool is stating, “Because I said so”.

So what is a modern leader supposed to do? I propose that today’s leaders embrace the wisdom of the world’s greatest DJs, as nightclubs are increasingly reflective of organisational culture in the digital age. Here’s my top 10 playlist for driving your people into a frenzy:

  1. DJs create an environment where people can express themselves without fear of recrimination. If you don’t allow it, they will go somewhere that will. They also recognise that people respond better when their primal needs are met. I write about the concept of anthro-economics in my book (Beyond Nine to Five Your Career Guide for the Digital Age).
  2. DJs recognise the importance of sonic empathy. To have people follow you, you first need to honour their expectations. Once you have demonstrated a genuine interest in their needs, they will allow you to lead the way.
  3. DJs know that it’s time to change the music when the energy levels drop on the dancefloor. Business leaders need to be sensitive to the prevailing mood of the organisation, and change the message, as required. Don’t wait until a revolt is imminent.
  4. DJs recognise that they cannot force people into the club, nor can they stop them from leaving. They can only create a compelling environment that naturally attracts and retains the best dancers. That is the number one job of business leaders. Clients increasingly follow talent, and not corporate brands. Get your priorities right, and you’ll make your shareholders happy too.
  5. DJs recognise that the audience is diverse, and so endeavour to meet their needs. This also introduces the majority to new tunes, which serves to refresh the experience, and broaden perspectives.
  6. To create a unique sound, DJs need to ‘parallel process’. Mixing records comes to mind. If this is not done with sufficient care, it will grate with the dancers. When business leaders launch parallel initiatives, they too need to be synchronised.
  7. Similarly, DJs recognise that the next track needs to segue smoothly from the current one. Or they, again, risk grating the nerves of the dancers. Business leaders who make no effort to dovetail their messaging, appear to the dancers as acting impulsively, and thus their messages are not heeded.
  8. DJs endeavour to take the dancers on a journey. Business leaders need to clearly articulate the vision, and behave as if that really is the intended destination, rather than just another business magazine inspired, ‘fad of the month’.
  9. Smart DJs know that there are two or three people in the crowd (of perhaps thousands) who set the standard for what is acceptable, and what is cool. These are the influencers. They need to be identified early and lavishly catered to.
  10. Ultimately smart DJs move with the times. They are data-driven. In the digital age, success in the past is no indication of success in the future.

As a thought experiment, imagine you are at the helm of LIV, Studio 54, the Limelight or Pacha. If you can’t, then possibly leadership in the digital age is not for you.

The crowd is waiting in anticipation. Are you ready to step up to the deck?

Originally published on LinkedIn.