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DIGITAL LEADERSHIP: A SYSTEMATIC CONCEPTUAL LITERATURE REVIEW

Authors:
  • National Defence University - Turkey
  • National Defence University, Istanbul, Turkey

Abstract

Digital Leadership is a leadership style that focuses on implementing digital transformation within an organization. It enables enterprises to digitize their work environments and learning cultures. As such, it is a critical component of the literature for maintaining the competitiveness and survival of organizations in the twenty-first century. By reviewing secondary sources, a conceptual framework for digital leadership was developed; the value of digital leadership was discussed and studies on the qualities of digital leaders were described. The following questions were posed: "What is digital leadership?" "What are the attributes of a digital leader?" and "How important is a digital leader?" As a result of this research, a digital leader is defined as a leader who has innovative ideas on a digital level, motivates his employees in a digital environment, is capable of establishing sustainable communication with his employees in a digital environment and developing digital strategies.
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DIGITAL LEADERSHIP: A SYSTEMATIC CONCEPTUAL
LITERATURE REVIEW
Murat SAĞBAŞ
1
Fahri Alp ERDOĞAN
2
ABSTRACT
Digital Leadership is a leadership style that focuses on implementing digital transformation within an
organization. It enables enterprises to digitize their work environments and learning cultures. As such, it is
a critical component of the literature for maintaining the competitiveness and survival of organizations in
the twenty-first century. By reviewing secondary sources, a conceptual framework for digital leadership
was developed; the value of digital leadership was discussed and studies on the qualities of digital leaders
were described. The following questions were posed: "What is digital leadership?" "What are the attributes
of a digital leader?" and "How important is a digital leader?" As a result of this research, a digital leader is
defined as a leader who has innovative ideas on a digital level, motivates his employees in a digital
environment, is capable of establishing sustainable communication with his employees in a digital
environment and developing digital strategies.
Keywords: Leader, Leadership, Digital Leader, Digital Leadership, Digital Transformation.
DİJİTAL LİDERLİK: SİSTEMATİK KAVRAMSAL LİTERATÜR TARAMASI
ÖZ
Dijital Liderlik, örgüt içindeki dijital dönüşümü gerçekleştiren, örgütlerin ortamını ve öğrenme
kültürlerini dijitalleştirebilen liderlik modelidir. Bu nedenle, literatürde 21. yüzyılda örgütlerin rekabet
edebilirliğini ve hayatta kalmasını sağlamada önemli bir unsuru temsil etmektedir. Yapılan araştırmada
ikincil kaynaklardan değerlendirerek dijital liderlikle ilgili kavramsal bir çerçeve oluşturulmuş, dijital
liderliğin önemi, dijital liderlerin özelliklerine yönelik yapılan çalışmalar özetlenmiştir. Araştırma, "Dijital
Liderlik nedir?", "Bir lideri dijital lider yapan özellikler nelerdir?" ve "Dijital liderin önemi nedir"
sorularına yanıt aramıştır. Araştırmanın sonucunda dijital lider, dijital zeminde yenilikçi fikirlere sahip,
çalışanlarını dijital ortamda motive eden, çalışanlarıyla dijital ortamda dahi sürdürülebilir iletişim
kurabilen, dijital stratejiler geliştirebilme yeteneğine sahip lider olarak tanımlanmıştır.
Anahtar Kelimeler: Lider, Liderlik, Dijital Lider, Dijital Liderlik, Dijital Dönüşüm.
1
Asst.Prof., National Defense University, Atatürk Strategic Research Institute, Department of Defence
Management, muratsagbass@gmail.com, ORCID: 0000-0001-5179-7425
2
Res. Asst., National Defense University, Atatürk Strategic Research Institute, Department of Defence
Management, falperdogan98@gmail.com, ORCID: 0000-0001-6069-5981
Digital Leadership: A Systematic Conceptual Literature Review
Murat Sağbaş, Fahri Alp Erdoğan
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INTRODUCTION
Businesses are beginning to adapt their transactions to the digital world as a result of the
rapid advancement of technology. They continue to engage with clients via websites and
to boost output through the use of smart technology and systems (e.g., AI). The fact that
the businesses that facilitate these transactions have benefited over time has permitted the
formation of digitalization targets for other firms in the same industry and the emergence
of digitalization competition between enterprises. Competition between enterprises has
spread to the market over time, resulting in market changes. The objective of digital
transformation is continual optimization as a firm that is capable of sensing and
responding rapidly to market developments. This type of transition does not occur by
chance and is extremely rare to occur organically (Maryanne, 2018: 66). Businesses have
been digitalized, which has resulted in the digitization of leaders and the emergence of
the notion of digital leadership. Due to the rarity of spontaneous digital transformation,
digital leaders are required who can plan and execute systematic activities toward the goal
of digitalization, empower their employees to act in accordance with this goal, adapt to
changes, and design strategies that balance technology and human factors. Due to the
necessity of adopting disruptive technology to boost productivity, value creation, and
social welfare, digital transformation can be helped by the characteristics of digital leaders
(Ebert, 2018). To adopt disruptive technology, a corporation may need to establish a
sustainable digital learning culture. Digital leaders are those that prioritize the methodical
growth of a digital learning culture throughout the company. There are numerous reasons
why digital transformation projects fail; one such cause is that critical components of
change management are overlooked in respect to employees and customers who must
alter their work and interaction with the business (Correani, 2020). As a result of its digital
knowledge and experience, digital leadership can help lower the likelihood of failure in
digital transformation projects. The continuing development of smart technology in the
workplace, which results in more digital workplaces, presents certain issues in terms of
managing and addressing these new business settings (Haddud, 2018). The concept of the
digital leader is intended to address these issues. The complexity and uncertainty,
exacerbated in part by the growing pace of globalization and technological change,
necessitate the development of human resources equipped with the skills necessary to
assist enterprises in overcoming the obstacles inherent in digital transformation (Sousa,
2019: 328). Businesses require leaders with digital competencies to ensure that skilled
staff are able to adapt to the digital world. This establishes a clear separation between
process automation and optimization, as digital transformation methods extend beyond
the process paradigm, affecting goods, services, and business models as a whole (Matt,
2015). These change processes have intensified in recent years, most notably with the
Covid19 pandemic (Yıkılmaz, 2021a). The ability to redesign businesses digitally is
largely driven by a clear digital strategy that is supported by executives that promote an
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adaptable and innovative culture (Kane, 2015). Additionally, leaders are expected to be
competent at addressing and overcoming the obstacles inherent with digital leadership
(Van Wart, 2017). Thus, the digital transformation process requires a leader capable of
defining and managing a radical change strategy, rather than simply digitizing business
processes and transactions or integrating new digital technologies into the organizational
context (Yıkılmaz and Sürücü, 2021). Additionally, to overcome the challenges
associated with digital transformation, leaders must develop a blend of digital and human
skills, primarily the ability to communicate effectively in a digitized environment, foster
cooperation among geographically dispersed followers, encourage initiative, and shift
attitudes (Cortelazzo, 2019). Digital leaders assist businesses in achieving digital
transformation by establishing a vision and empowering employees to carry it out,
motivating employees, valuing their ideas and ensuring that employees have a voice in
decision-making, and designing and implementing versatile and flexible policies in
response to the rapid advancement of technology. In this context, the paper discusses the
notion of digital leadership and intends to explore it in detail, owing to the critical role
they play in the digital transformation process and their decisive contribution to the
efficacy of the digital era. The paper outlined the notion of digital leadership within the
context of existing literature and discussed its key characteristics. The study is considered
to make significant contributions to the literature by presenting studies on the concept of
digital leadership and increasing awareness of the impact of the leader element in an
organization on success in the context of digital transformation and future organizational
management approaches.
LITERATURE REVIEW
Systematic content analysis
The systematic content analysis of the literature review was used as the research approach
in this study. It is a systematic, quantitative, and qualitative strategy for doing a literature
review that may be used in both domains (Wilding, Wagner, Seuring & Gold, 2012). The
quality and quantity of research on the concept of digital leadership, which originated in
the digital age and might be regarded a requirement, is highly debated in the literature.
To aid future study, a rigorous conceptual review of the literature on Digital Leadership
was done. As a result, this study, "What is Digital Leadership?" was done to address the
following questions: "What traits define a leader as a digital leader?" and "What is the
digital leader's significance?" To assure data quality, the emphasis is on studies published
in peer-reviewed academic journals. The majority of the review was conducted using
publications from the Scopus and Web of Science databases. Scopus was used to
eliminate unscientific and unscientific literature from Web of Science datasets. Apart
from the Scopus and Web of Science databases, a Google Scholar search was undertaken
to uncover relevant supplementary papers. Five keywords were chosen from the specified
databases based on the literature. Due to the association of leadership with the digital
component, combinations of the phrases "digital", "digital age", and "digital
Digital Leadership: A Systematic Conceptual Literature Review
Murat Sağbaş, Fahri Alp Erdoğan
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transformation" were produced under the label "Leadership". Regardless of the
combination, a literature search using the keywords "Digital Leadership", "Leader 4.0",
"e-leader", and "Digital Leader" was undertaken. Following the scanning, it was found
that twenty studies were appropriate for the investigation. The definitions of digital
leadership in the literature have not reached a point of unification. It has been discovered
that the Digital Leader is defined by some writers as accomplishing a goal connected to
information communication technology, leading the digital transformation phase, and
demonstrating a leadership style appropriate for digital surroundings. As a result, digital
leadership has been referred to in the management literature as e-leadership (Phillip,
2021). In terms of publication year, the first contribution on digital leadership dates all
the way back to 2002. The papers identified reflect an increase in the number of studies
on Digital Leadership in the literature. The majority of publications identified were
published in 2016, which corresponds to current research showing their significance. The
analysis of the literature reveals a rising prevalence of the term "digital leadership" in
scholarly publications (Kokot, 2021). The following section of the study will address the
notion of digital leadership, its significance and qualities, as well as the research findings.
Digital leadership concept
Leadership is described as the capacity to guide a firm toward achieving its objectives
and establishing a sustained competitive advantage. To maintain a sustainable
competitive advantage, firms must have technical products and systems that speed and
enable production, communication, and cost reduction, as well as the ability to use these
products and systems optimally (Uğural et al., 2020). In summary, firms must embrace
digitization. To achieve sustainable, effective, and efficient digitalization, a solid
digitalization plan requires leaders who can guide employees toward digitalization. The
concept of a digital leader has become critical in determining an organization's ability to
fulfill its digitalization goal. Due to the fact that this notion is frequently used
interchangeably with the concept of e-leadership, the concept's first appearance can be
attributed to an essay authored by Avolio (2000). However, Peter Fisk (2002) pioneered
the idea of "digital leadership" independent of e-leadership as the focus of thorough
research. According to Fisk (2002), digital leaders are visionary, motivators of change,
capable of combining ideas within the business for projects, and establishing connections
through the creation of new opportunities for partnerships/joint ventures/outsourcing and
other forms of collaboration (Fisk, 2002). The Upper Echelons Theory serves as the
foundation for the concept of digital leadership. According to this idea, managerial
background characteristics make organizational results (strategic choices and
performance levels) more predictable. (Hambrick and Mason, 1984). As a result, it is
claimed that organizations led by individuals that exhibit the attributes necessary for
digital leadership are likewise digital. According to the definitions of Digital Leadership,
Avolio's (2000) research on e-leadership is regarded as the "Concept of Digital
Leadership." According to Avolio, digital leadership is a "process of social transformation
in which advanced information technology mediates in order to affect individuals, groups,
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and/or organizations' manners, attitudes, emotions, thoughts, and behaviors." Fisk (2002)
discusses the relationship between digital leadership and transformative leadership in his
paper. According to Fisk (2002), a digital leader is imaginative, pushing for change,
capable of uniting the organization's ideas and objectives, and capable of connecting firms
through partnerships/joint ventures/outsourcing and creating new opportunities for them
(Fisk, 2002). Wilson III (2004), on the other hand, asserts that the digital leader is defined
by their leadership in the fundamental sectors of the information society (information
processing, communication and broadcasting, publication, and multimedia) and their
contributions to the information society's transition. The leadership established Duan
(2005) defines the fundamental fields of information technology (internet service
providers, internet content providers, internet application providers and the other
tenchnology based areas such as the data processing, communcation and the content).
Kurubacak (2006)'s perspective on digital leadership is centered on the role that digital
leadership can play in social activism, and he defines digital youth leadership as
"vigorously preserving the power partnerships necessary for their purposes, respecting
democratic practices that include citizens, appearing consistent in order for their policies
to be represented, and playing autonomous roles for the purposes of their own online
interactions." Borins (2010) examined digital leadership from a political perspective,
examining former US President Obama's actions in the virtual world, and concluding that
a digital leader is a composite of channel selection (Virtual World), IT procurement, and
organizational integration of ITs. Sheninger (2014) discussed the digital leadership style
that must be used in education, stating that digital leadership is "capable of determining
the direction, influencing others, and initiating sustainable change through information
gathering and networking in order to anticipate the necessary changes for the school's
future success." Altınay (2016) defined digital leadership in his research as the capacity
to follow current technology in order to reconstruct knowledge according to its
fundamentals. While Van Wart (2016) stated that digital leadership is synonymous with
e-leadership and that it is the ability to effectively select and use information
communication technologies to accomplish personal and organizational goals, Narbona
(2016) defined digital leadership as a leadership style used with digital means in the
virtual world in his research on Pope Francis social media actions. According to
Larjovuori (2016), digital leadership is the capacity to identify and develop the skills and
talents necessary to engage all people of the business in the digitization process.
According to Omar A. El Sawy (2016), who conducted research on the LEGO Company's
digital transformation, digital leadership involves "demonstrating the appropriate
behaviors for businesses and business ecosystems to strategically digitalize." According
to Zhong (2017), digital leadership is about leading and inspiring digital transformation,
establishing and maintaining a digital learning culture, facilitating and improving
professional growth based on technology, as well as providing and maintaining a digital
organization. Oberer ve Erkollar (2018) conducted an analysis of the traits that leaders
should possess throughout the Industry 4.0 era and concluded that digital leaders are those
that are agile, cross-hierarchical, team-oriented, and embrace a collaborative approach
Digital Leadership: A Systematic Conceptual Literature Review
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with a strong emphasis on innovation. Tanniru (2018) defined digital leadership as a
process that requires an agile IT and business architecture in order to bring ideas to life
rapidly, hence improving and sustaining an innovation culture. According to Stana
(2018), digital leadership is a social influence process facilitated by technology that can
occur at any organizational level and is intended to affect an individual's, group's, or
organization's attitude, emotion, thinking, behavior, and performance. Despite
widespread belief/majority, Mihardjo (2019) believes that digital leadership is a product
of digital culture and skill. According to Antonopoulou (2019), digital leadership entails
achieving a goal related to information communication technologies while balancing
human resource and information communication technology utilization. Schiuma (2021)
examined the capabilities that leaders should possess when it comes to digital know-how
in the present digital age. Finally, Peng (2021) states that individuals or organizations in
the age of digital technology can fully transform teams, entire organizations, and
employees into digital thinkers by leveraging digital insight, digital decision making,
digital implementation, and digital guidance to ensure that their goals are met. He
characterized digital leadership as "the capacity to influence people to literally embrace
it."
Table 1: Digital leadership concept literature review
Author
Year
Type
Definition
Keywords
Avolio
2000
Research Paper
Stage of social change mediated by
Advanced Information Technology to
produce a change in attitude, emotion,
thought, behavior and/or performance
with individuals, groups and/or
organizations
e-leadership,
information
technology.
Fisk
2002
Research Paper
Visionary, motivating for
transformation, ability to combine ideas
within the organization for initiatives,
ability to connect partnerships/joint
ventures/outsourcing and all
collaborations by creating new
possibilities
Digital
Transformation,
Wilson III
2004
Book Chapter
Leadership in the basic sectors of the
Information Society and its
contributions to the transition to the
information society.
Transformational
Leadership,
Duan
2005
Thesis
Leadership in key sectors of
information technology (internet
service providers, internet content
providers, internet application
providers and other technology-based
areas such as computing,
communications and content).
Digital Leadership,
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Kurubacak
2006
Research Paper
Maintaining strong partnerships of
power sufficient for their purpose,
respecting civic democratic practices,
ensuring that their policies are
ostensibly consistent so that they can be
represented and playing independent
roles for the purposes of their own
online interactions, interacting with
multicultural unions and engaging with
various inquiries into the complex
nature of digital youth leaderships It is
a form of leadership that has the task of
representing the diversity of its
ideologies.
Information society,
Borrins
2010
Book Chapter
A leadership style with a mix of channel
(Virtual World) selection, IT
(Information Technology) procurement
and organizational integration of ITs
Leadership
Sheninger
2014
Research
Report
Being able to establish relationships to
set direction, influence others, and
initiate sustainable change through
access to information and to anticipate
changes necessary for future school
success.
Altınay
2016
Research Paper
Managers defined the digital leader as
organizers who follow modern
technology to reconstruct knowledge.
China, Leadership,
Van Wart
2016
Research Paper
Ability to effectively select and use
Information Communication
Technologies to achieve personal and
corporate goals
Information
Technology,
Information
Technology
Leadership
Narbona
2016
Research Paper
Leadership style applied with digital
tools in the virtual world
Digital Youth
Leadership, Politics,
Social Media, Social
Activism,
Larjovuori
2016
Conference
Paper
The ability to involve all members of
the organization in the digitization
process and to recognize and develop
the skills and abilities needed to achieve
it
Online interaction
El Sawy
2016
Research Paper
To exhibit the right behaviors in order
to ensure the digitalization of the
business and business ecosystem
strategically
Information
Technologies, Social
Media, Politics,
Digital Leadership
Digital Leadership: A Systematic Conceptual Literature Review
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Zhong
2017
Research Paper
Inspiring and leading its digital
transformation, creating and
maintaining a digital learning culture,
supporting and developing technology-
based professional development,
providing and maintaining digital
organization management
Digital Leadership,
Sustainable Change,
School Success,
Education
Oberer,
Erkollar
2018
Research Paper
A fast, cross-hierarchical, team-
oriented and collaborative approach
with a strong focus on innovation
Digital management,
Tanniru
2018
Book Chapter
A process necessary to develop and
maintain a culture of innovation by
rapidly bringing ideas to life using an
agile Information Technology and
business architecture
Knowledge
construction
Stana
2018
Conference
Paper
A process of social influence mediated
by technology that can occur at any
hierarchical level in an organization and
to bring about a change in attitude,
emotion, thought, behavior and/or
performance in individuals, groups
and/or organizations
Leadership,
Mihardjo
2019
Research Paper
A combination between digital culture
and digital competence
Technology-assisted
learning
Antonopoulou
2019
Research Paper
To reach a goal related to Information
Communication Technologies in line
with the use of human resources and
Information Communication
Technologies
E-leadership, ICT
adoption,
Government ICTs
Schiuma
2021
Research Paper
Competence that leaders need to
develop in today's digital age
Digital Leadership,
Pope Francis,
Transcendent
Leadership, Twitter
Peng
2021
Research Paper
In the age of digital technology,
individuals or organizations have the
ability to guide teams, entire
organizations, employees to fully
embrace digital thinking, using digital
insight, digital decision making, digital
implementation and digital guidance to
ensure their goals are met.
Digital Leadership,
Digitization,
Organization, Digital
Competence,
Employee Welfare
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Chart 1: Distribution of studies by types
The majority of studies (65%) are articles, 15% are book chapters, 10% are papers, and
the remainder are reports and theses. According to the literature, digital leadership is a
leadership style exemplified by individuals who have innovative ideas in the digital
environment, motivate their employees in the digital environment, communicate with
their employees in a sustainable manner even in the digital environment, and are capable
of developing digital strategies. If we are to classify the research in the literature, we can
state that the notion is defined for two distinct purposes. These include the leadership
style necessary for achieving information and communication technology-related
objectives (Avolio, 2000; Altınay, 2016; Van Mart, 2016; Antonopoulou, 2019), digital
transformation, and leadership in the digital world (Duan, 2005; Kurubacak, 2006;
Sheninger, 2014; Omar A. El Sawy, 2016; Narbona, 2016; Zhong, 2017; Oberer and
Erkollar, 2018; Stana, 2018; Schiuma, 2021; Mihardjo, 2019; Peng, 2021). We can assert
that since the Industry 4.0 era, the research in the literature have altered the definitions of
digital leadership. Since the Industrial Revolution 4.0, the concept of digital leadership
has been included into the literature as a means of achieving leadership in the digital realm
and facilitating further digital transformation.
Importance and characteristics of digital leaders
Digitization has become an unavoidable fact of life for businesses. Digitization has been
a goal for organizations due to the benefits it delivers in terms of increased
communication and document preservation. Subsequently, digital transformation was
defined as more than the use of computers or the Internet in various business functions;
it encompassed the incorporation of new digital technologies such as social media,
artificial intelligence, and big data into business processes, as well as the subsequent
development of new business models (Klein, 2020). Many businesses now are strapped
for cash and must be extremely selective about the technologies they finance, adopting
New Information Technologies in ways that align with their business and strategic
objectives, including sales and marketing initiatives (Andal Ancion, 2003: 34).
Organizations that are unable to innovate in order to thrive and compete will face a larger
Article
65%
Book Chapter
15%
Report
5%
Thesis
10%
Conference
Paper
5%
Article Book Chapter Report Dissertation Conference Paper
Digital Leadership: A Systematic Conceptual Literature Review
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risk of failing (Prakasa, 2020). Leaders should understand that the transformation brought
about by technology has the potential to significantly boost productivity and provide a
competitive edge (Lokam, 2015). The critical lesson here is that we must view digital
transformation as a thorough process of organizational culture change (Ehlers, 2020).
Leaders who do not use internal digital platforms to communicate effectively across their
organizations miss out on major potential to improve corporate culture and organizational
performance (Cardon, 2019).
Chart 2: Characteristics of digital leaders
Source: Klein, M. (2020). Leadership Characteristics in the Era of Digital
Transformation. Business & Management Studies: An International Journal (BMIJ), 8(1), 883902, 895.
The leader will increasingly act as an online influencer and integrator of virtual identities
that are aligned around their own ideals and objectives (Dimitrov, 2018). Digital
leadership has been demonstrated to have a bigger impact on digital disruption than
innovation management (Wasono, 2018). The sustainable competitive advantage
afforded by technology and digitalization enables businesses to create a digitalization
objective and guides organizations in determining how to accomplish this goal. Several
of the problems raised in the subject of directing digital transformation and developing
strategies resulted in research on what leaders should do to facilitate an organization's
digital transition and what characteristics they should have. In firms that have completed
their digital transformation, the strategies that must be designed for digital environments
have driven employees to seek answers to questions about digital environment orientation
(Sağbaş, 2021). It has raised the question of how the leaders charged with these
responsibilities should tackle the situation. According to a study, responsive leadership,
community leadership, learning and innovative leadership, open leadership, agile
leadership, participatory leadership, network leadership, trust leadership, digital
leadership, and collaborative leadership are all examples of leadership in the Industry 4.0
era (Guzman, 2020). The reason for the rising interest in digital leadership during the
Industry 4.0 period is that companies and academics are gradually noticing the changes
and benefits brought about by digitalization and digital environments for institutions.
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Bennis (2013) asserts that digital technologies have altered the nature of leadership and
management.
Leaders in the digital era might come from any level of the company (Gudergan, 2021).
The digital leader's important variables are agility, participation, trust, networking, and
openness (Petry, 2018). The digital leadership process leverages four critical platforms to
facilitate business transformations (Tanniru, 2018):
• An innovation platform that encourages teams to discover value-creating ideas through
digital transformations;
• An agile system and business platform for rapidly designing and delivering IT
applications;
• A learning platform that fosters reflective discourse and organizational capacity
building;
• They serve as an adoption platform for determining when and how to implement digital
transformations.
Digital leadership is founded on the systematic interaction and interdependence of three
functional areas (strategic leadership, entrepreneurialism, and digital technology)
(Temelkova, 2018). Employee identification with the organization should be enabled or
encouraged through digital leadership (Meier, 2017). It entails considering online self-
awareness and harmony, navigating the debate surrounding cyber kindness, and figuring
out how to be a digital citizen capable of inspiring positive social change (Ahlquist ,2014).
Governance is the process of establishing a digital organization, including its vision,
values, structure, culture, and decision-making procedures, as well as adjusting personnel
management, virtual teams, knowledge management, and communication and
cooperation on an individual basis (Eberl, 2021). Collaborating on digitalization projects
involves coordination of the capabilities of senior management and the information
technology department in order to clearly define roles and duties (Larjovuori, 2016).
Digital leaders act on three levels: they encourage members of the organization to
consolidate knowledge gained through their individual activities, they consolidate and
share knowledge within the team or group to foster deeper understanding, they mediate
knowledge between members of the organization or groups, and they bring outside
knowledge into the organization (Zupancic, 2016). Digital leaders are responsible for
maintaining effective communication with employees, the executive team, and the
information technology team inside the business, as well as coordinating across these
three groups in order to realize digitalization or digital applications. Digital leaders must
be transparent, unbiased, and sympathetic in order to facilitate communication between
these three groups and to resolve inter-unit issues. Additionally, the digital leader's
expertise of business, digital literacy, and management science will enhance the success
Digital Leadership: A Systematic Conceptual Literature Review
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of the open, unbiased, and empathic policies and behaviors that the digital leader is
expected to exhibit.
The organizational changes required for digital leadership and digital business strategy
have necessitated a reassessment of the corporate information technology function and
the position of the chief information officer (El Sawy, 2016). CIOs, it has been found,
require digital leaders to facilitate digital transformation. Boards that do not successfully
design their digital futures and control, guide, and manage strategy, investment, and
business technology risks face an uncertain future (Valentine, 2015). To design a digital
workplace, CIOs must convince their organizations to appoint a digital workplace or
employee experience leader, define customer and employee experience, and design the
digital workplace, based on customer and employee experience and led by an evidence-
based approach to employee experience management. They must establish a distinction
between systems that enhance employee experience and employee well-being (Dery,
2017).
The availability of new digital technology results in the development of innovative digital
solutions (Joas, 2020). Digital leadership is a subset of all information technology roles
associated with high-level innovation (El Attoti, 2016). Given the interrelated nature of
digital and IT capabilities, it is critical for digital leaders to collaborate and build effective
collaborations that contribute to the success of Digital Transformation programs
(Engesmo, 2020). Digital leaders champion an agile company environment, which
enables quick innovation and increased customer satisfaction (Bolte, 2018). Personal
competence of the leader, as well as the capacity to apply various methodologies and tools
such as mindset and design-based thinking, are essential dimensions for digital leaders
(Oberer, Erkollar, 2018). When innovation, difference, and transparency are permitted,
technology progresses. Individuals who come into contact with innovations frequently
lose interest in innovation. Due to a lack of information on innovation, their viewpoint on
work may suffer. Employees have the potential to change their attitude toward a new
digital system or element for the better, motivating them, which is why digital leaders are
necessary. Digital leaders should be mature in their views toward employee errors in
digital settings, report employee errors in a non-offensive manner, and instill in
employees the belief that they can achieve competency in the digital environment by
learning from their errors.
Digital advancements have not yet reached their full potential. Changes in digital worlds
occur frequently and swiftly, necessitating that digital leaders adopt a reactionary position
capable of quickly adapting to these changes. It is vital to evaluate what will happen when
digital elements that are controlled and strategically provide a competitive edge over other
organizations are no longer capable of providing that advantage, as well as how to adapt
to a more advanced digital technology or system. Digital leaders must comprehend
emerging and established technical trends and display leadership across the entire value
chain (product process-people) (Bowen, 2021). Thus, the reason for the digital leader's
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ongoing development of plans and strategies for digital transformation is that the
elements, systems, that are strategically superior as a result of rapid technological
progress lose their worth over time. On the other hand, the ability of a digital leader to
accurately foresee future changes in the digital field differs according to his or her
interaction with digitalization and digital systems. Leaders who lack digital expertise may
struggle to comprehend why employees are having problems with a new digital system
and to assist their staff.
The digital leader's goals and initiatives must be promptly implemented throughout the
workplace. The effectiveness of plans and strategies is contingent upon effective
communication with employees and accurate assessment of opportunities and
capabilities. Through various methods (like as surveys and digital competency tests),
digital leaders can elicit employees' thoughts on digital transformation and ensure that the
digital strategy being developed is grounded in reality. To develop alternate plans and
strategies, digital leaders must be able to think in several dimensions.
Digital leadership is defined by a leader's contribution to the transformation into a
knowledge community and skill in technology (Shah, 2020). The objective of digital
leaders can be defined as bringing digital transformation to life and allowing businesses
to maximize their potential in the digital environment. Digital expertise and experience
are critical to facilitating the achievement of these objectives. Digital knowledge and
experience can assist you in determining the types of challenges you may encounter in
the digital environment and the actions that should be demonstrated to overcome these
challenges. The digital leader must possess a digital skill set, which is defined as the
abilities required to comprehend digital technologies, to handle them effortlessly, and to
employ them sensibly (Hensellek, 2020). Leaders must have a primarily digital vision
and approach when it comes to digital transformation (McCarthy, 2021). The abilities and
characteristics required for digital leadership are generally change-related and refer to
managers' and organizations' transition and digital preparedness (Gfrerer, 2021). They
have always guided the company in adapting to changing times, connecting people to
open working ecosystems, balancing human and technological participation in work,
thinking innovatively and holistically (Asri, 2020), promoting sharing through the use of
digital resources (Westerman, 2014: 148), and communicating timely and openly (Asri,
2020). (Abbu, 2020). Digital leaders are able to adapt to changing technological, political,
and sectoral requirements. They should be able to adapt their business to changing
requirements as a result of external influences. Otherwise, organizations that have
effectively adapted may find themselves falling behind in the sector's competition. Digital
leaders possess digital literacy and knowledge, vision, the capacity to design customer-
centric strategies, agility (the ability to adapt to changing market conditions), a
willingness to take risks (creating an experimental environment), and the ability to
collaborate (Promsri, 2019). Individuals who will lead digital transformation should be
willing and skilled to learn new technologies, according to Kazım (2019). Willingness
Digital Leadership: A Systematic Conceptual Literature Review
Murat Sağbaş, Fahri Alp Erdoğan
30
and talent can help leaders stay on track in the face of disappointments. Employees might
detect their boss' passion and motivation, which can serve to increase their own desire
and motivation. It possesses a transformative vision, progressive viewpoints, digital
literacy, and the capacity to produce change-oriented or adaptable behaviors and tactics
(Kane, 2019). They should possess the following abilities: knowledge management,
critical thinking, creativity, problem solving, cooperation, communication, technique,
self-direction, lifelong learning, ethical awareness, cultural awareness, and adaptability
(Van Ee, 2020). Leaders of digital transformation must cultivate critical thinking, create
problem-based learning settings to improve people's thinking abilities and knowledge
acquisition, and care for people's progress through personal and professional development
programs and trust. They are not scared to assign them a difficult work that requires a
sense of responsibility and a willingness to take risks (Schiuma, 2021). Digital leaders
prioritize participative behaviors above authoritarian behaviors in order to demonstrate
the organization's knowledge of digitalization. They make an effort to keep their staff
engaged in the digital transformation process. What enables an organization to undergo
such a transformation or shift is the vision and decision-making of its executives, who
connect digitalization to a developing corporate need (Sainger, 2018). Digital leaders are
continually developing forward-thinking goals and strategies to assure continuity in the
digital realm or throughout digital transformation, and digital literacy, expertise, and
experience are critical for achieving the goals and successfully implementing the
strategies. Organizations rely on leaders who are informed about digital transformation
projects and possess emotional intelligence to recognize when their capabilities in this
area are restricted and delegate responsibility for these challenges to others (Sow, 2018).
Leaders who are willing to empower other employees to accomplish the transformation
objective and who are able to respond to setbacks with understanding and empathy will
be able to avert employee demoralization and motivation in the digital world. Successful
digital leaders of the future will possess great coaching abilities, enabling them to foster
dynamic, empowering, and high-performance cultures (Brett, 2019: 32). Digital leaders
are characterized by an inventive mindset, networking intelligence, adaptability,
motivational coaching, digital intelligence, democratic compromise behaviors, and a
capacity to learn from their failures (Klein, 2020). Digital leaders with vision, courage,
inspiration, intellectual stimulation, passion, strategic thinking/planning, focus,
collaboration, innovation, adaptability, communication, emotional intelligence, spiritual
intelligence, responsibilities and accountability, technology, entrepreneurial, and
adaptive ideas should be able to shape societies, solve problems, and think critically
(Daud, 2021). According to the evaluations, digital leaders possess a specific amount of
digital expertise and experience, a vision for businesses to achieve their digital goals, and
the ability to adjust their ideas and policies to changing situations.
Due to the qualities of digital leadership, it can be compared to other leadership styles.
Digital leadership practices are inextricably linked to emotional intelligence and
leadership types such as transformational and transactional leadership (Aldawood, 2019).
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It should be led by a visionary figure, have a digital-age learning culture, professional
development, systematic improvement, and digital citizenship (Agustina, 2020). To
overcome obstacles and seize opportunities, digital leaders must demonstrate a high level
of entrepreneurial leadership success (Kazim, 2019). Maintaining service workers'
effectiveness in a "virtual environment" demands leadership conduct that is "task and
relationship-oriented" (Bartsch, 2020). More democratic leadership styles, more
consistent manager behavior in pursuit of the firm's objective, and more effective strategic
management processes all contribute to the growth of digital transformation processes
(Porfrio, 2021).
CONCLUSION
Business processes and manufacturing methods have been disrupted, digital applications
and alternative digital transformation stages have been rapidly adopted to address this
scenario (Yıkılmaz, 2021a), and the benefits of digitalization have been the companies'
top priority. The Covid-19 period has compelled enterprises to adopt remote working,
distance/online education, and training, hence increasing the demand for leaders with
power or dominance in the digital world. Throughout this epidemic, organizations
favored leaders who established clear roles and objectives, shared leadership,
communicated with employees, prioritized employee emotional well-being, protected
company financial health, and promoted organizational resilience (Dirani, 2020).
Absence of participation in internal digital channels represents a significant missed
opportunity for executives to establish corporate legitimacy (Wang, 2019). Digital
leaders, who are at the forefront of digitalization and digital sectors, guarantee that
employees achieve digital goals while also positively impacting organizational
performance. The widespread adoption of digital awareness by the majority of employees
can result in the development of a digital learning culture and a decrease in the time
required to reach the next level of digitalization.
As a result, there has been an increase in studies on digital leadership. This increase can
be attributed to the growing relevance of digital leadership in company life. According to
the available literature, the general characteristics of digital leadership are as follows: a
leader who has a vision for digital transformation, is capable of developing flexible and
adaptable policies, possesses digital knowledge and intelligence, motivates his
employees, allows them to make mistakes, and demonstrates empathic and conciliatory
behaviors. We can say that digital leadership resembles other leadership styles in various
ways. Visionary leadership, entrepreneurial leadership, transactional leadership,
transformative leadership, and democratic leadership are all examples of these leadership
styles. The study's shortcomings include a lack of complete research on digital leadership,
a lack of business and management papers, and the use of English, Turkish, and German
materials. However, it demonstrates the term "digital leadership" becoming more
prevalent in scholarly journals over time (Kokot, 2021). Although theoretically
demanding and growing in popularity in practice, research on digital leadership is still in
Digital Leadership: A Systematic Conceptual Literature Review
Murat Sağbaş, Fahri Alp Erdoğan
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its infancy (Gfrerer, 2020). In this context, while expanding the literature on the
developing concept of digital leadership, it is anticipated that the study will contribute
significantly to the adoption of digital leadership practices with a view toward digital
transformation by reviewing managers' current leadership practices in order to improve
managerial effectiveness in practice.
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... Dijital liderlik alanında literatürde sınırlı sayıda eser bulunmaktadır. Mevcut eserlerin büyük bir çoğunluğunu ise kavramsal eserler oluşturmaktadır (Abbasov ve Tolay, 2021; Alan ve Köker, 2021;Özmen vd., 2020;Sağbaş ve Erdoğan, 2022). Bu eserlerden hareket ile dijital liderlerin, örgüt içerisinde yapılacak işlemleri dijitalleştirerek, zaman ve emekten tasarruf etmeyi amaçlayan liderler olduğunu söylemek mümkündür. ...
... Bütün bu işlemleri yaparken aynı zamanda dijital liderler örgüt içerisindeki bireylerinde organize edilmesinden ve klasik liderlik unsurlarında da sorumludur (Alan ve Köker, 2021). Bu nedenle dijital liderler yönetim becerileri, dijital yetkinlik ve becerilere sahip olmak zorundadır (Sağbaş ve Erdoğan, 2022). Bu becerilere sahip olmayan liderler zaman içerisinde sistemin dışına çıkarılacak, yerlerine dijital yetkinliğe sahip yeni liderler gelecektir (Küçükalı̇ ve Coşkun, 2021). ...
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