Why, as Digital Leader of the Year 2017, I think there’s no such thing as a digital leader

Helen Award.jpg

Last year, I was voted Digital Leader of the Year at the DL100 Awards, which was a surprising and amazing honour. With nominations now open for this year’s awards, and being in a typically reflective mood for the New Year, it has made me think. I was, of course, delighted to win the accolade last year, but if we, as a society, are to truly embrace digital then there shouldn’t be any individual digital leaders.

Bear with me.

Digital is everywhere in today’s society. It is implicit in so many roles, from communications through to service delivery and project management. To be successful, you need to be digitally competent and confident – which is why we exist as an organisation.

The same goes for organisations too. Those not embracing digital are being left behind by their competitors, as evidenced by the latest Lloyds Business Digital Index. The report says the most digital business leaders are three times as likely to report increasing turnovers. Which implies that the most digital leaders are just better leaders.

In our increasingly digital society, to be considered a leader, it’s an absolute must to be able to do things digitally and to be able to support others to do things digitally. If you can’t do either, then you just can’t be called a leader.

A good leader thinks about the future of their organisation, they are clear about their vision for their organisation and makes decisions based on an understanding of the wider world they work in. They know their staff make the difference, and build an environment they can thrive in, and they understand customers, stakeholders, and partners, they communicate well with them. None of this stuff can be done well without digital.

There are lots of great leaders that champion digital transformation, and I’m honoured to have been recognised as one of them. But in 2018, should we still be talking about digital transformation? Digital has already transformed most of our lives, in ways both big and small. So when we’re talking about digital transformation, we should be transforming lives for those who still aren’t being included in our digital world.

Digital transformation, after all, is just making our businesses better, improving the way we communicate with customers and citizens, seizing all the opportunities that are available to us. It seems a bit of a no-brainer to me.

I am honoured to be named a Digital Leader, and will fully support this year’s DL100 Digital Leaders Awards as they are a chance to shine a spotlight on the benefits of embracing digital as a leader. And, I’m looking forward to seeing, and being inspired by, this year’s winners and nominees.

But that being said, I’m hopeful that soon we’ll reach the stage where every leader is a digital leader, and we’ll just be celebrated good leaders, rather than good digital ones.

The will to win

I really was delighted last month when we received three nominations in the Digital Leaders 100 Awards 2016. This annual ceremony has taken place every year since 2013 and celebrates innovative people, organisations and tech which contribute towards the digital transformation of the UK.

Helen at the awards

Me at the Digital Leaders Awards last year when we were lucky enough to win for our Widening Digital Participation programme with NHS England.

 

These are our nominations:

English My Way

English My Way is a project we’ve run in partnership with The British Council and BBC Learning English for the past three years, supporting English Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) from inside and outside of the UK online centres network to develop their English language skills, their confidence and to better integrate with their local communities.

From what I’ve seen throughout the project it has been a success and so beneficial to the project participants. Now as the project draws to a close it has been rewarded with a place on the Digital Leaders 2016 list, the ideal way to celebrate and reflect on its success.

Future Digital Inclusion

Future Digital Inclusion is our flagship digital inclusion project, funded by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. We know that people without digital skills are at a significant disadvantage in today’s society. They are less able to access information, learning opportunities and all the other significant advantages the online world has to offer.

Future Digital Inclusion aims to close the digital skills gap by reaching out to the 12.6 million people in the UK who don’t have basic digital skills. To-date through the UK online centres network we have supported over 445,000 people to improve their basic digital skills through the programme.

Tinder Foundation

Lastly Tinder Foundation has been nominated for Charity Digital Leader of the Year. The whole organisation was delighted by the news, and it is such a nice surprise. This award isn’t just for the Tinder Foundation team though, it’s for everyone who lives under the Tinder Foundation umbrella – the UK online centres network, the learners and our Board. Congratulations to everyone – you thoroughly deserve this.

Now that we’ve made the shortlist and I’ve told you a bit about our nominations, it’s time for me to add in my plug. We’ve made the 2016 Digital Leaders 100 list, now it has to be put into a final order through the judges and public vote, and I’d love for you to give us your support.

Simply visit the Digital Leaders website and find us in the ‘Charity Digital Leader of the Year’, ‘Cross-sector Digital Collaboration of the Year’ and ‘Digital Inclusion and Skills Initiative of the Year’ categories.

Thank you.