Leadership in the digital age –
A study on the effects of digitalisation
on top management leadership
"Digitalisation and the phenomenon of digital transformation is rapidly and fundamentally changing
existing businesses and organisations alike (Collin, 2015). Although considered a prime challenge for
leaders of complex and changing organisations, research in the combined field of digitalisation and
leadership however still remain scarce. As executives are tasked with the leading of digital
transformation, this study aims to understand how digitalisation effects top management leadership. To
achieve this, the study takes a two-folded approach by (1) outlining six characteristics of digitalisation
and (2) analysing how these characteristics effect three contemporary forms of leadership: values-based,
transformative and authentic leadership. Through a broad literature survey and 13 in-depth interviews
with executives and organisational leaders, the study found that the six identified characteristics of
digitalisation all effected the three forms of contemporary leadership. The different characteristics did
not only change how the leaders practiced each of their leadership styles, but also how their leadership
manifested itself through the use of various digital tools, methods and processes in order to enhance and
empower their leadership. Even the sub-features of each leadership form were subject to this
fundamental digital change. What was also found were three complementary perspectives when leading
complex and changing organisations: the perspective of holism, virtuality and networked-based hubs.
Each of these perspectives were premiered aspects to be considered as a contemporary leader."
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