Francisco J. Navarro-Meneses Francisco J. Navarro-Meneses

The New Leadership that Business Transformation Demands.

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Business transformation is best managed when there are smart leaders who recognize the needs of the organization and are willing to guide it on the right direction. The other side of the coin is that smart leadership is a critical capability that companies urgently need to equip themselves with to address all the transformational changes required to build a new culture based on agile and continuous transformation.

What’s more, smart leadership is a critical competency needed to successfully embrace Big data and AI-based advanced technology initiatives across the organization and truly reap the benefits of business transformation. Paradoxically, as most companies increase their reliance on data and algorithms for decision-making and the automation of routine information-intensive tasks increases, so does the relevance of smart transformational leaders.

Companies that pursue deep transformation need good leaders with a vision not only to improve a few key processes and make them work smoothly and more efficiently, but to profoundly transform the organization around three fundamental key areas: customer experience, operational processes, and new business models.

What is at stake is not only how the organization is going to manage the new processes and products based on data, or how it is going to implement increasingly smart technologies to get the most out of them, but how to give the organization a new impetus that make it stronger and more competitive.

At the end of the day, it’s about making organizations work more agile and respond to customer needs faster and more accurately than all other competitors.

Who Is the New Smart Transformational Leader?

Smart transformational leaders understands that the world of technology and data is changing very rapidly, and they take very seriously how smart things are changing the way consumers and business behave.

They are well aware that Big Data, Analytics, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT)-centric technologies are becoming ubiquitous and that a quiet, but powerful (smart) revolution is underway affecting management of all organizations.

Smart transformational leaders have a clear mission: they work hard to make their organizations develop a smart mindset and be prepared to respond to disruptions caused by the use of smart data-driven technologies globally and pervasively by organizations and individuals.

The huge demand for change brought about by this so-called smart revolution makes it inevitable for organizations to build a greater capacity for innovation and transformation, and this fundamentally affects the leadership functions.

In other words, without renewed leadership it is simply not possible for a business transformation process to succeed and for companies to be reborn as smart organizations, which is, by the way, what their customers expect them to do.

New Leaders Means a New Mindset

It is the job of smart transformational leaders to understand how transformation affects existing organizations and how they can be threatened if they do not change, do not become flexible, and do not reorganize towards increasingly digital and smart business models.

Becoming a smart organization requires well-defined leadership that shares a clear vision and goals and activates flexible talent management practices within a new organizational culture that puts data at the center of the organization.

All the above is simply not possible without those who are to lead the transformation nurturing a new leadership mindset. A mindset that leads the way to a new data-centric culture that enables organizations to successfully extract value from data applications and consistently deliver benefits across the organization.

This requires the commitment of visionary leaders who inspire the rest of the people in the organization and become role models in discovering new sources of opportunities resulting from the transformation. New leaders who have the skills to overcome the technical and organizational obstacles to creating value when a company is turned upside down.

Smart Leaders Adore Data

Smart transformational leaders view data as a key asset that all people in the organization must have access to and know how to use. They understand that data and analytics can greatly enhance the organization’s ability to innovate and respond to changing customer needs and preferences. Ultimately, smart leaders are convinced that data is an asset that strengthens the competitive edge of their business.

Smart transformational leaders stand out because they emphasize the systematic use of data throughout the organization not only to address operational or tactical problems, or to create more compelling reports, but also to integrate data into decision-making processes that lead to the allocation of resources, put new products and services on the market, or promote new business models.

To achieve their goals, smart transformational leaders do not hesitate to build a flexible and decentralized organizational structure where all its members collaborate and share their knowledge to extract value from data. In this way, smart transformational leaders learn their way to connect the “big picture” questions that all managers ask with the more specific, “low-level” questions that machines can answer, thus reconciling machine-generated models with the nuances of human preferences.

Smart transformational leaders are definitely aware of the benefits of using data, but they are also aware of its limitations and know how and when to adapt the role of data when it comes to formulating strategies and adjusting the expectations of data users within the organization.

It comes as no surprise that they never stop communicating with the entire organization when data analytics reveals something insightful, because when the organization shares the insights generated by data, it reinforces the importance and usefulness of the data and encourages people to pursue this course of action.


In the last few years, business organizations have gone from a lack of information as one of the main reasons for uncertainty to an overabundance of data that can now be quickly and affordably transformed into information and knowledge. Data offers organizations the potential to reduce risk in decision making by enabling business leaders to access deeper and more holistic insights into the challenges they face.

This silent but profound revolution in the way businesses are managed is driven primarily by data and smart technologies and means leaders must increasingly focus on Big Data and analytics skills and foster a data-driven decision-making culture with the right technologies to support it.

The use of data and the possibility to create new value for the organization is something that does not happen by chance or accident, nor is it something that can be easily achieved in a few weeks or months. Furthermore, companies are unlikely to be more successful simply because they have access to good data or because they implement the latest technology hype.

Successfully transforming your organization in the coming years is going to require, in addition to significant financial, human, and technological resources, new smart leaders who possess a balanced combination of skills, attitudes and behaviors that guide the organization towards “smartness”.

Bear in mind that this is not the exclusive responsibility of companies, who must always ensure that they have the right people in the right place and must start promoting talent on new conceptual and practical bases, but also of people, who must acquire new knowledge, learn new skills and develop new behaviors hitherto unknown.

It is certainly a good start that companies committed to deep business transformation have begun to create new leadership roles that did not exist until now. But will this be enough to ensure the success of business transformation initiatives? Probably not unless it is accompanied by a broader vision and stronger commitment that encompasses not just the leaders but the entire organization.

Photo by pch.vector Freepik

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