We live in a hyper-connected era, with an increased reliance on digital information and extensive use of the Internet for a steadily rising number of activities. Yet, our understanding of the Internet’s impact on business and the subsequent required digital transformation has not kept pace. Today, there is a vital need to promote greater leadership in information and communication technology (ICT) related innovation and productivity in order to deliver stronger business value and benefits.
e-Leadership is of crucial importance for companies in all industries to excel in their business operation. Recent research and studies confirm that the shortage of e-leadership skills across Europe is significant. The European Commission indicates that demand for digitally skilled employees is growing by around 4% a year and that shortages of ICT professionals in the EU could reach 825,000 unfilled vacancies by 2020.
As part of the service contract “LEAD - e-Leadership Skills: for Small and Medium Sized Enterprises’, funded by the European Commission, several European business schools, universities, and companies are defining targeted actions to promote e-leadership across Europe and study how e-leaders have emerged in business.
E-leadership is defined as the accomplishment of a goal that relies on ICT through the direction of human resources and uses of ICT. It is a type of leadership, distinguished by the goals that need to be accomplished and what resources a leader must coordinate and align in order to do so. In the case of e-leadership, both the goal and the resources involve using ICT. An e-leader must be both business and ICT-savvy.
Previous studies have found that effective organisations are demanding e-leaders with a T-shaped portfolio of skills, representing expertise in both using ICT and developing organisations. Having a T-shaped portfolio of skills means that a leader has on one hand, a vertical set of skills that represent expertise or “deep knowledge” in a specific area (e.g., ICT; science; engineering; social sciences etc.); on the other hand, a horizontal set of skills that represent “transversal skills” (e.g., negotiation; critical thinking; design and systems thinking, business and entrepreneurship, etc.) that enable collaboration across a variety of boundaries; both vertical and horizontal sets of skills require at least an advanced level of ICT user skills.
The Profile of an e-Leader
Within the LEAD initiative, 42 high-growth small and medium sized companies across four European countries –Bulgaria, Denmark, Spain and United Kingdom– were analysed in order to determine how e-leaders have emerged in these companies, and how the companies meet their needs for new e-leaders.
Three characteristics appeared in the results typifying e-leaders:
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[This research paper has been reproduced with permission of the authors, professors of IE Business School, Spain http://www.ie.edu/]