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The New Leadership Playbook for the Digital Age

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The New Leadership Playbook for the Digital Age

Reimagining What It Takes to Lead

MIT Sloan Management Review,

5 min read
4 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

The digital economy demands new kinds of leadership – but most leaders are falling behind.

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As the digital economy continues to reshape work and business practices, leaders need to develop new approaches to guide their teams and organizations forward. But an authoritative 2019 study finds that leaders themselves are falling behind. MIT Sloan Management Review and Cognizant surveyed more than 4,000 leaders worldwide, conducted executive interviews and performed sentiment analysis – only to find that most leaders are holding their teams and organizations back by clinging to outdated leadership concepts and practices. Luckily, this report offers clear, actionable guidance to help leaders transform.


Most leaders are failing to adapt their leadership to radical changes in the economy and workforce.

Digitalization, associated changes in the competitive landscape, the gig economy and other shifts in the workforce are demanding new qualities of leadership. But few leaders are developing the attributes that will enable them to lead in the digital economy. In a global study of executives and team leaders, 82% of respondents felt leaders will need digital savvy – but only 10% believed leaders at their own organizations possessed the necessary skill. Fewer than half judged their organizations ready to compete in the digital economy. Many leaders are clinging to outdated leadership mind-sets and behaviors – such as rigid plans and protocols, a top-down management style, resistance to transparency, and a command-and-control approach – thereby holding their teams and organizations back. Leaders also suffer from blind spots where they so cherish existing practices and policies that they can’t perceive the changes occurring all around them.

Many leaders have become...

About the Authors

Douglas A. Ready is a senior lecturer in organizational effectiveness at the MIT Sloan School of Management and the founder and CEO of the International Consortium for Executive Development Research. Carol Cohen is senior vice president of global talent and leadership at Cognizant and a founding board member of the Cognizant US Foundation. David Kiron is the executive editor of MIT Sloan Management Review. Benjamin Pring cofounded and leads Cognizant’s Center for the Future of Work.

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