The digital transformation is changing business models and processes and therefore calls traditional leadership approaches into question. Digitisation is not just about using new technologies. Established business models and management approaches need to be radically changed. What does a digital leader need to do to meet one of the biggest challenges facing companies, digitalization?“, says TimeTac time tracking in the call for a blog parade, which I would like to participate in. In the run-up to this article, I would like to mention that I am currently carrying out the studyDigital Leadership in SMEs – A View from the Point of View of Managers” together with Tobias Greff. However, this is still in review and will be published soon. I would therefore like to publish some results in summary form in advance.

What is Digital Leadership

In this study, Tobias Greff (AWS Institute for Digital Products and Processes) and I (Lindner and Greff 2018) looked at more than 30 definitions of the Digital Leader. Together we came up with the following definition:

Digital Leadership is a cross-sectional competence as well as a collective term for various methods, theories and tools that describe leadership and especially leadership competence in the digital age (Lindner and Greff 2018).

Reading Tip: What is Digital Leadership

What are the CHALLENGES of a Digital Leader?

As already mentioned in the study by Lindner and Greff (2018): Leadership, as well as leadership research, have always been subject to permanent change. What characterizes a manager is dealing with new challenges (Wiendick & Wiswede 1990). Here, leadership behaviour is characterized by learning processes, self-reflection, lived vision and adaptation as well as by changing framework conditions (Enste et al. 2013). One example is Taylorism, in which it was the responsibility of the manager to achieve the maximum efficiency of employees and machines. It continued with new topics such as the increasing number of women, which sparked a gender-specific leadership debate, or globalization, which triggered a discussion about diversity-oriented leadership. Now, executives are facing increasing digitization. This has many challenges. In a roundtable Tobias Greff and I asked 6 executives about their current challenges. These are:

  • Generational conflict/digital maturity of individuals
  • Remote and distance guidance
  • Agile team leadership

To explain: Digital maturity means that some employees like to use a lot of technology and other employees even refuse it. An executive must therefore lead employees individually according to digital maturity

There is no question that all employees work in the same place. This increases the need for virtual guidance through phone, video or email. The number of so-called agile teams (e.g. scrums) is also increasing, which can no longer be managed promisingly with conventional methods.

How can a digital leader master digitalization?

In the lindner and Greff study, 66 executives were asked about the current solutions to the three challenges mentioned above. The results can be found extensively in the study, but I would like to quote a few of the recommendations for action.

Generation management (from Lindner and Greff 2018)

  • Understand: Generation X, Y, and Z stand for employees in three phases of digital affinity – beginners, advanced and digital natives. It is recommended to build up knowledge about the individual generations.
  • Individually rate: Not every employee can clearly be classified into a generation or an older employee is not always a beginner in digitalization.
  • Use acceptance: New flexible working concepts tend to be valued across generations and thus offer the ideal starting point.
  • Employee orientation: Intergenerational management does not replace individual employee management, but it does provide an orientation guideline.
  • Reading tip: What is generation management

Remote and distance guidance (from Lindner and Greff 2018)

  • Raising awareness: According to the study, virtual leadership is becoming increasingly important. More than 90% of employees are permanently digitally accessible. In more than 55% of cases, virtual leadership is mandatory.
  • Employees coach & motivate: The motivation of the employees in a virtual employment relationship and the coaching is considered to be one of the most important tasks of the manager.
  • Concrete objectives: It is recommended that you control virtual teams through targets. Regular status messages are useful as a tool for target correction.
  • Clear role distribution: In a virtual team, the stable distribution of roles as well as the work according to the pull principle could relieve a manager.
  • Employees trust: According to the participants, virtual leadership is based on trust. It can be assumed that the larger the work packages, the more trust is needed.
  • Reading tip: What is e-leadership

Agile team leadership (from Lindner and Greff 2018)

  • Skills: There is a common understanding that a digital leader should have social, technological and visionary skills that can be trained.
  • Characteristics are: to promote leadership on an equal footing, trust in employees, experiments and inspiration as well as agility and participation.
  • Skills are:knowledge of new trends, agile methods, new working concepts, new technologies and new markets.
  • Reading Tip: Agile Leadership


A digital leader is distinguished by dealing with current challenges in the course of digital change. Using the example of three selected challenges, I have given tips and hints on how to solve these challenges in this article.

Genderhinweis: Ich habe zur leichteren Lesbarkeit die männliche Form verwendet. Sofern keine explizite Unterscheidung getroffen wird, sind daher stets sowohl Frauen, Diverse als auch Männer sowie Menschen jeder Herkunft und Nation gemeint. Lesen Sie mehr dazu.

Falls es noch Fragen gibt, können Sie mich gerne anrufen. Hierzu einfach im Buchungssystem nach einen freien Termin schauen. Ich nehme mir jeden Monat einige Stunden Zeit um mit Lesern zu interagieren.

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Vernetzen Sie sich in jedem Fall auf Xing oder LinkedIn oder kontaktieren Sie mich direkt für einen Austausch, wenn Sie gleich mit mir ins Gespräch kommen wollen. Werfen Sie auch einen Blick in meine Buchvorschläge zur Digitalisierung, vielleicht wollen Sie mir auch ein Buch empfehlen?

Ich arbeite gerne mit Unternehmen zusammen. Sie können mich ebenfalls gerne bezüglich folgender Punkte anfragen:

Verwendete Quellen anzeigen

Designed by Freepik – JComp

The study by Lindner and Greff 2018 will be published in about 3 months!

Wiendick G. & Wiswede, G. (1990): Leadership in Transition: New Perspectives for Leadership Research and Leadership Practice. Stuttgart: Enke.

Enste D. H., Eyerund T., Knelsen I. (2013): Leadership in Change, Munich: Roman Herzog Institut e. V.


I blog about the impact of digitalization on our working environment. For this purpose, I present content from science in a practical way and show helpful tips from my everyday work. I am a manager in an SME myself and I wrote my doctoral thesis at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg at the chair of IT Management.

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