The Modern Leader – Digital Competence and Emotional Intelligence

I go out of the metro at Friesenplatz and I look confused around... I am already late… “Excuse me, where is Mediapark – I am looking for Startplatz Köln?” The passer-by smiles and points at a bridge with a high business building behind it. I am rushing towards it. Suddenly a wonderful view is revealed  in front of me – marvelously designed bridge over a beautiful live lake with green flora and birds, behind it there is a square with flags and eight modern beautiful business buildings ordered in, like in a dance circle – Mediapark. I cross the bridge and enter with surprise and admiration into the amazing business complex, a home of over 250 companies with a work force over 5000 people.

“Startplatz Köln? Building 5, floor 7?” I push the button, introduce myself and enter. And suddenly, I get into a dynamic, full with innovations and ideas world, where everything is possible. Young, intelligent, technically competent leaders from 5 different European countries in a race for a business price. There is definitely something to see here.

The team I get into consists of seven young men, managers in different companies. Every one of them leads certain business operations in his company – sales, marketing, strategic planning, there is even one executive director. Then an unbelievable 54-hour working marathon starts – to develop a business from idea to first sale for such a short time! Back in the day I would say – impossible! Now – a matter of leadership.

What did I learn about myself in contact with these modern successful young leaders?

When we define leadership, we talk about the absolute faith in the idea, about the ability to sway the others in it and to keep the teams direction and focus until you get the result you wish for. Now I would add to this two more things – digital competence and emotional intelligence.

The modern world is built of fast changes, huge amount of information and never-ending twists and turns. But most certainly, there will be a change. It is guaranteed and might happen in a second. This places the leaders in front of the necessity to have the most current and right information, so they can be competent in the direction they lead their team in.

With the new methodology and digital technologies business now can be managed only from your phone, even a laptop may not be necessary.

Within the experienced 54 hours in Cologne I saw how through two phones and three laptops went marketing information about a whole market – with research of target groups, market shares, competitors presence and media coverage, and more, and more – fast, competent, without an effort.

How does this happen? Imagine a wide conference table with comfortable sofas and chairs, with white board for planning behind the project manager, minibar and table soccer on the other side.

On a huge canvas on the table we write down our team skills and competences, our values, which is the goal we team up upon, and why exactly this problem is important to solve. The atmosphere is friendly, but also professional. It’s also important for our personal goals to be covered. One of us writes down a personal goal – “To develop the business so well, that it would gain a milliard.” I look around – nobody is laughing, everyone is nodding with approval.

As a business coach I am used to asking questions: “Colleagues, is this goal SMART (simple, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely)? One of them raises his head and notes seriously: “Actually the first million is difficult… after that it gets easy.” Then the team bursts into laughter…

We begin the business development and I am amazed by the rich amount of technical and business knowledge - Lean Management, CRM systems, SCRUM master, web-based platforms, SEO, so much practical knowledge and cumulated experience.

This is the modern leader – it is necessary to handle easily communication platforms, informational and statistical online instruments, and knowledge management systems.

A leader should be able to operate with modern quality management and project management systems – should be aware of the principles of Lean Management and Agile Process Management. In a multinational company structure a leader should work skillfully with integrated ERP systems, which cover the analysis, planning, executing and control of all company’s units. It is important to know the working methods of the virtual information channels, to know how to manage social media channels and to track personally the information stream in his or her professional area.

You would say – well, there are specialists for everything! Yes, it is true, but now THERE IS NO TIME. To be adequate in this speedy informational world the leader should have knowledge in much more areas than before – just because in the world of dynamic change decisions should be taken fast.

And here comes the second even more important characteristic – emotions management.

The topic about emotional intelligence is not new, in the past years it is covered in the leadership training programs as well as in the individual management coaching programs.

Yet now I clearly see the significance of keeping emotional balance under pressure, the ability to influence not only your own emotions, but also to manage the emotions of the people you work with. Racing with time, taking a huge amount of important decisions in constantly changing environment and permanent insecurity puts the leaders under much higher emotional pressure.

An established practice for every one of these managers was to work with a professional coach so they could use their full potential and resources. The work for training their teams and reaching team synergy was an inseparable part of the strategy for reaching the corporate goals. The necessity to know and apply instruments related to behavioral change, talent and team development and modern coaching techniques, was fully conscious.

Even in the very event, the temporarily formed business teams was given the opportunity to work individually with a coach and to choose among ten specialists, among which, for my pleasant surprise, were also two Bulgarians.

During these two days we talked a lot about people management, goal setting and reaching worldwide results, about what is necessary for the modern leader to know and be able to do. We argued a bit on topics like – how national psychology affects leadership and how “cultural knowledge” is one of the basic skills for reaching worldwide success. Yet all of us united around the following:

The biggest challenge in people management for the modern leader is the fight for keeping the focus. In a world with so much information and changes the toughest thing is not to create an idea or to define the goal, but to manage to keep the team focus onto this goal despite all distractions of the environment. With the bombing with real and fake information, with emotional attacks from every side, uncertainty, obscurity and change…

And precisely this determines the success of the modern leader – the ability to navigate in this complicated and vague environment with digital competence and emotional intelligence.