In today’s pervasive digital world, you are constantly assessed based on your digital communications. For example, was your email clear enough? Was your memo easy to read? Are you able to distill your key messages into an easy to understand Slack message? In addition, it is no secret that the best companies use big data to back up their insights. As a leader, it is essential that you are able to understand the potential benefits of big data and be able to direct and empower digitally-native teams.
These concepts are the heart of digital literacy and bring to light why digital literacy is an important leadership skill. This article will share more on “What is digital literacy?”, and provide examples of the leadership skill.
What is Digital Literacy
You may be asking yourself, “What is digital literacy?” Well, the definition of digital literacy is two fold. First, you need to be able to communicate your ideas effectively through several digital mediums (e.g., emails; memos; PowerPoint slides). In addition, you need to be able to understand the potential of technology to transform your business. This will enable you to effectively lead technology-heavy teams (e.g., coders). For example, a digitally literate leader is able to:
- Communicate their point effectively no matter the format (e.g., uses concise language and formatting to get their point across in emails).
- Understand the potential of technology and how technology can transform the companies’ business model.
- Give clear directions to / motivate technology-heavy teams and ask the right questions to know if a technology project is on track.
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Why is Digital Literacy Important
A question you may ask is “Why is digital literacy important? Isn’t it enough to communicate your points verbally?” However, the world is unsurprisingly becoming more digital. Business executives are expected to influence stakeholders not only through verbal communication but also through multiple forms of digital communication, e.g., emails, memos, slack messages, etc. Innovative and incumbent companies alike are leveraging big data to make more targeted insights. In order to be a leader, you don’t need to learn how to code in Python, Angular, etc. (take a deep breath!). However, it is important to:
- understand what you can use advanced technology for
- be able to interpret the outputs of the technology
- be able to manage projects with technology experts.
A digitally literate leader is not only someone that will be listened to and respected but can also help companies reach their full potential. Without being digitally literate, your options may be narrower, as you will not be able to help businesses embark on some of their most critical work.
Digital Literacy Skills
There are multiple digital literacy skills that can help you shape up your leadership potential. Digital literacy skills include:
Written Communication Skills (including synthesis skills)
To be digitally literate, you need to be able to engage with your audience no matter the form (long form; short form; etc.). The key to digitally literate written communication is to be able to synthesize your message into a pre-specified length. It is also important to format your message in a way that is easy to understand and digest. For example, you should be aware of how you use bullets, italics, and bold text to emphasize your message.
Conceptual Thinking Skills
One of the biggest takeaways around digital literacy is the need to be able to lead a digital team. This is even if you are not a coder or have a technical background. To do this successfully, you need to be able to be a big picture thinker to understand what you can accomplish via big tech.
Verbal Communication Skills
People who are digitally literate are able to communicate super technical skills in a “dumbed down” way so non-technical people can understand the key takeaways. In addition, you need to be able to communicate your vision effectively such that the technical employees can execute on it.
Digital Literacy Assessment:
While there is no formal digital literacy assessment, you self-assess your digital literacy skills by reviewing your comfort across the span of digital literacy use cases. In areas you do not feel comfortable, you can double down with more targeted digital literacy training. For example, if you don’t feel comfortable with writing in different digital formats, you can work with a coach or a mentor to improve your written communications (e.g., identifying the key points you are trying to say via the pyramid principle).
Digital Literacy Examples
Digital literacy can take many forms. Some examples include:
- Writing memos
- Writing slack messages
- Writing emails
- Brainstorming about digital transformation with technical teams
- Leading team of data scientists
As such, digital literacy is an essential leadership skill. While it may not be evaluated in a traditional consulting interview, it can be looked at throughout the interview process. For example, candidates that write an A+ cold networking email are more likely to get a response. In a junior level employee role, written communication can enable you to be more persuasive and effective as an employee. As you get more senior, the importance of digital literacy increases, as you will be expected to lead digital native teams. Therefore, digital literacy is a key leadership skill.