Discussion Paper of the Institute for Organisational Economics 11/2018

Identifying Leadership Skills Required in the Digital Age
Milan F. Klus/Julia Müller
November 2018



Is leadership changing in an increasingly digitalised work environment? This question arises in corporate practice, societal debates, and in business management research. The evolution of digital technologies changes working environments considerably and creates new challenges for executives. So far, however, only little research has been conducted on how these challenges and technology-driven changes are associated with altered requirements for the skill set needed by executives. In this paper we bridge that gap by applying a three-stage research design. First, we develop a novel conceptual framework in which we categorise leadership skills and associate them with tasks, management level, and leadership experience. Building on this, we conduct semi-structured interviews with executives and systematically investigate job advertisements at the management level. Our interview results show that communication skills, subject-specific knowledge, self-organisation skills, and self-reflection skills are considered particularly relevant in times of rapid technology-driven change. Furthermore, many interview participants identify empathy and an open-mindedness towards the new as crucial personal traits. Our job advertisement analysis further reveals that executives need to be able to speak English, have IT skills, and be flexible, motivated, and stress tolerant.