3 Behaviors for Leadership in the Digital Age

By China Gorman


t’s not enough for business leaders to merely be behind the curtain anymore.

In a world that’s rapidly becoming more technology driven, managers and executives must put in extra effort to create human relationships with their people — connections that are necessary for any organization to thrive in a complex and competitive marketplace.

The more your business is centered around artificial intelligence or other digital technologies, the more effort you have to make to be human and to create human relationships, pry people away from their smartphones, have face-to-face conversations, appreciate people and be honest.

  1. Be trustworthy and fair. Whether your people see you regularly in person or you stay “behind the curtain,” your team has to be able to trust that what you say is the truth. That doesn’t necessarily mean you always share everything you know, but everything you do say has to be true. If you can’t share an answer to a question or some other information for a legal or strategic reason, then be upfront about that. When you speak you should tell the truth, and if the truth changes you should go back to your people and explain why.
  2. Be personal and approachable. The second vital behavior for leaders is that even if you stay “behind the curtain” and all anybody sees is the smoke and the floating face of the “wizard,” you still have to figure out how to be personable and approachable. Your people still need to feel that you’re a human being — and that they’re being treated as human beings. That means if you bump into each other in the hallway, you stop, look him or her in the eye and talk directly to that person. If you struggle to make human connections with your team, consider holding office hours in the cafeteria two times a month for a few hours and announcing it to your team by offering to chat or answer questions. Maybe just two people will show up the first time. But the next time four people will attend, then eight. Before long you will have made real strides in changing the vibe in your organization.

  4. Provide and acknowledge meaning. This can be a hard one for baby boomers, who, broadly speaking, are often happy just to have a job. But today’s reality is that there are younger generations in the workforce who, while certainly happy to have a job, care more about the values that they hold and the meaning they derive from their work than previous generations have. In this case, the CEO will rarely be the person who regularly acknowledges meaning for low-level employees, but they can still do it periodically.

Increasingly complex times demand dynamic leadership, which calls upon business leaders to step out from behind the curtain and connect with their people on a genuine human level.

China Gorman is managing director America for Unleash and is the former CEO of Great Place to Work. This content was developed in partnership with Unleash America. To comment, email