The digital era is also known as the “Age of Distraction” (Schwartz, 2013). In myself, I see myself trying to do many things at once, aka multitasking, which it seems that communication technology seems to lend itself to (driving and talking/texting, looking at my phone when I am with people, eating, shopping, etc.). Schwartz (2013) purported that multitasking is better described as “continuous, partial attention”, and recommended that one schedule a “digital sabbath” daily (p. 2). This is a good reminder for me to be more intentional about my use of digital communication technology, both at home and at work, and I must think of it as “protected time.” (Schwartz, 2013, p. 2).
This has led me to highly value skills in people who can put the technology down and focus and clearly think about a task, or subject through its completion. I suspect fewer mistakes are made when a person has this kind of focus. As a leader, this causes me to look for employees who know how to focus and prioritize. Schwarz (2013) pointed out psychologist Daniel Goleman’s statement that “because attention is under siege more than it has ever been in human history, we have more distractions than ever before, we have to be more focused on cultivating the skills of attention” (p. 1). Schwartz (2013) discussed New Zealand longitudinal study on concentration done with 1000+ children by Moffitt and Caspi from Duke University who found that “the ability to concentrate was the strongest predictor of success.” (p. 2).
According to Mercurius (2006), a digital-age thinker is one who is values globalization via “strong human relationships, a constant effort to unite people . . . around topics which they feel passionate . . . and are change practitioners (p. 3).” He noted that “digital-age leaders must bring the past and the future into alignment by being:
- “Knowledgeable and literate in their field;
- Systemic and strategic thinkers;
- Successful at implementing major projects or programs;
- Able to communicate, motivate, and cultivate;
- Confident in making important decisions with limited data;
- Attuned to the values and benefits of globalization; and
- Infused with technological savvy (Mercurius, 2006, p. 3).”
Digital-age thinkers are “motivated by their freedom” and this encourages the use of laissez-faire leadership that allows employees to carry out the business’s mission and vision without undue oversight. Thus, these knowledge workers are best led by those who possess:
- “Agility — the ability to make decisions quickly and decisively,
- Capacity — the innate ability to thrive on ambiguity,
- Authenticity — the ability to be consistent and credible,
- Connectivity — the ability to bridge differences and generate trust,
- Inimitability — the ability to capitalize on talents and intangible qualities, and
- Passion — the ability to infuse passion for building teams and great organizations” (Mercurius, 2006, p. 7).
Wilson, Goethals, Sorenson, and Burns (n.d.) believed that leaders in the digital age should be:
“flexible and adaptable, and possess wide intellectual curiosity and a hunger for new knowledge. They must be willing to see value in sharply different perspectives, and be comfortable with uncertainly, and like all leaders at all time, must possess true passion for what they do. They look globally for solutions and challenges, and also hunger for constant learning and insist on constant learning from their collaborators and followers. They maintain a more egalitarian and results oriented approach than earlier leaders needed.“ (p. 3). The authors go on and noted what I think is the most important attribute, that of a strong moral compass to direct their actions.
As recommended by Larson, Miller and Ribble (2009), I plan on staying up to date with the trends of technology, but not try out every tool available to me. I need to be aware of what is being used in my field and be proficient with that technology. The best way for me to master new technological skills is to teach it/share it with others. Perhaps I will need to seek out a technology mentor! Thank you Dr. Watwood for showing me where to look to stay up to date with technology. I will be more mindful of my “digital citizenship” (Larson, Miller, and Ribble, 2009) and the responsibilities therein. I plan to write down my own digital strategy for personal and professional purposes.
Friedman, T. (2007). The world is flat. New York, NY: Picador.
Mercurius, N. (2006, March 1). Leadership: Become a digital-age thinker. Retrieved from http://www.techlearning.com/ideas-
Schwartz, K. (2013, December 5). Age of distraction: Why it’s crucial for students to learn to focus. Retrieved from
Wilson III, E. J., Goethals, G.R., Sorenson, G., and Burns, M. (n.d.). Leadership in the digital age.
The Encyclopedia of Leadership. Retrieved from http://www.cidcm.umd.edu/leadership/Leadership_in_the_Digital_Age.pdf