The making of a digital leader

Leaders are struggling with complexity and the sheer speed of the economy today


As the failure rate among CEOs rises, is it time to reinvent leadership to meet the emerging challenges of the 21st century?

When a Microsoft executive mapped out the company’s strategy to extend its client and server platforms to the Internet, it took an hour. Confronted by a sea of bemused faces, he admitted that this was a boiled-down version of his usual three-hour exposition. When he finished, the only point of consensus among those listening was that the Microsoft .NET strategy was too complicated to be absorbed in the allotted time. As one reporter observed: “What is beyond doubt is that .NET is one of the most significant things to have happened in IT for a couple of decades, and at the same time the most confusing”.

From a leadership perspective, there are two ways of looking at this incident. Either, the Microsoft leadership still has a lot of work to do to articulate its vision of the future in a clear and intelligible form (calling it .NET is hardly an auspicious start). Alternatively, the markets that Microsoft operates in are now so complex that its strategy can no longer be rendered in pithy soundbite form. Both are probably true. We have moved from an either/or world to one where either/and situations are commonplace.

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