Leadership in a new era

In the new conception of the modern world, widely dominated by the irruption of the digital world and in which companies must immerse themselves in a digitalization process that allows them to ensure their survival, there is a growing need for new leadership and management models in this new virtual space that clashes head-on with traditional hierarchical leadership models. The big question everyone wants to know is: how can this traditional model be adapted to the new era?

Digital era: a new framework

From the beginning, it is necessary to understand that unlike most leaders of past generations who did not receive specific leadership education or training, today anyone can access a multitude of resources and specific training in this area, and, not only this, but it is an essential part of the learning programs of any university program in the world. This generates that new employees enjoy more tools to detect, value and challenge the new leaders of the future.

The digital world has turned traditional working environments upside down, with new collaborative relationships between members and their leaders. This has resulted in the blurring of the boundaries between a leader and his or her subordinates, giving rise to a new paradigm in which subordinates act and behave as leaders in this new digital world.

New leadership models in the digital world. What can I expect?

To meet the challenges of the new world, all members of an organization must be equally committed to participating in the leadership process at all levels. There is no longer talk of leaders focused on a single person, but rather on entire leadership teams.

This has another consequence, and that is that the roles of leader and subordinate are combined for each of the different employees, eliminating the notion of a single identity and generating the new model of multi-role identity. This idea is complemented by the concept that an individual in society can play different roles depending on which environment he or she is in, for example, he or she can be a parent in one environment or a student in a different one.

Process-based leadership

In this new approach, the focus is on the process as opposed to the direction of the leader. The important thing is no longer the figure of the leader but the leadership process itself, and in this, all employees participate, functioning at the same time as leaders or subordinates, as the situation requires. In the digital world, any non-leader must assume the leadership role if he or she has the necessary competencies that ensure the fulfilment of the appropriate process to achieve the company’s objectives.

Distributed leadership

This concept is understood as the practice of a shared leadership system among all individuals rather than a system of delegated tasks. In this approach, control and power are always available to everyone.

Achieving this model requires the establishment of sincere collaboration among all individuals in pursuit of a common goal.

Shared leadership

The shared leadership is the representation of the paradigm in which the traditional conception of the firm vertical hierarchical line is eliminated towards a flexible horizontal system, focused on the collective and not on the individuals.

The many challenges of the digital world require a multitude of different disciplines that cannot be found in a single figure, so there is no single valid leader in this model, but rather a multitude of them in the form of different teams or organizations.

Collective leadership

Leadership collaboration implies that all members of a company know when to execute a leadership role and when to subordinate it according to the needs of the project, as long as their skills are required in a fundamental way for the achievement of the project. It is a prerequisite that all team members distribute these roles effectively.

Adaptive leadership

The demands of the digital age call for a fluid model in which individuals cultivate multiple roles in pursuit of a continuous and adaptive leadership process. This occurs in conjunction with more interdependent, flexible, and decentralized working structures.

So… What is my role in this new scenario?

One thing is clear: no one is a leader or subordinate from now on, but we will all be leaders or subordinates in different situations or contexts.

The challenge is, however, enormous: in order to reduce the gap between the old labour structures and the new ones required by the new digital world, it is necessary to count on the willingness of all parties involved. Only in this way is it possible to achieve a perfect symbiosis between all of them by means of a full and healthy collaboration.


Petros G. Malakyan (December 2nd 2019). Digital Leader-Followership for the Digital Age: A North American Perspective, Digital Leadership – A New Leadership Style for the 21st Century, Mario Franco, IntechOpen, DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.89820. Available from: https://www.intechopen.com/books/digital-leadership-a-new-leadership-style-for-the-21st-century/digital-leader-followership-for-the-digital-age-a-north-american-perspective

Digital Leader, leadership

David Camino Perdones

MSc in Computer Science, MSc in Mathematics. Passion for technology and continuous learning.

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