How to become a digital leader and grow your company

Andy Poulton
Digital Marketing Specialist | innovate2succeed
29th November 2017

What do Alan Turing, Tommy Flowers and Dorothy Vaughan have in common? 

All three were very early digital leaders; Turing for his ‘Turing Machine’, an early general purpose computer; Flowers for ‘Colossus’, the first programmable computer used to decrypt German military messages at Bletchley Park; and Vaughan for spotting the potential of NASA’s first IBM mainframe and leading the way in programming the device to compute spaceship trajectories.

Closer to today – Elon Musk, Pierre Morad Omidyer, Martha Lane Fox CBE and Jimmy Wales?

All of the above are digital leaders who founded exciting, new and very disruptive tech companies in the early noughties. Musk founded PayPal, Omidyer e-Bay, Lane Fox and Wales Wikipedia.

But what is digital leadership? 

Digital leadership is the strategic use of digital assets to help organisations become more responsive to customer needs and changing business requirements. 

This can involve:

  • Working more efficiently
  • Impacting business productivity
  • Enhancing customer engagement and journey 

What are benefits of digital leadership?

Although the people mentioned above were disruptive, introducing new concepts, thoughts and technology, a business doesn’t have to be disruptive to be a digital leader.

When a company looks to make the maximum use of technology and IT solutions across their business, striving for digital leadership, they stand to make gains across the business. 

So what areas can you make changes in to ensure you’re a digital leader? It starts by stopping working ‘in’ your business and starting to work ‘on’ your business. If you want to take advantage of the opportunities presented by the digital and technological revolution, take a step back from the day-to-day running of your business and analyse everything. 

Look at everything you do, ask who does what, why, when, how and invite others to contribute to your research. 


Of course, there are other, more intangible benefits of thought leadership. By working at the front end of the market, the culture change also inspires the whole team to want to be better and employees feel empowered (and encouraged) to learn new skills. 

Being seen as a thought leader brings other benefits, not least, a significantly higher profile both within your business sector, geographical region, and even nationally and internationally. This leads to great PR opportunities, frequently in influential publications, which raises the profile of the leader, of their organisations and makes them the ‘go to’ for both new clients and organisations who wish to emulate some of the successes.


Just look at the evolution in milking technology. Think back to a time when cows were milked by hand and the revolution that an automated milking machine brought to the market, enabling a herd of cows to be milked at the same time, requiring far fewer people. 

Now, the introduction of fully roboticised milking parlours mean that the cows can get themselves milked at a time that suits them, rather than just at dawn and dusk. 

Apparently, cows are happiest when they are milked between three and four times a day, alleviating the discomfort of full udders and happier cows lead to improved milk yield and the roboticised process significantly reduces workforce costs.


But it’s not all about the bottom line. There’s a halo effect that digital leaders benefit from. Like moths to a lamp, digital leaders attract other leaders (businesses and individuals) together which makes it easier to explore and develop increased partnership opportunities. 

This ‘halo’ also makes your customer feel good and it gives them the confidence that comes with working with acknowledged leaders. 

They’ll have a feeling of pride working with the leaders in a given field because it makes them look good to their customers. And this leads to the development of a virtuous circle of improvement, development and growth.


Digital leaders attract like-minded people, making it easier to attract quality personnel. As the culture continues to evolve, more and more people within an organisation are engaged and strive to be innovative themselves, ultimately engendering an innovative mindset across the organisation.

This means that innovation is more likely to be embraced and enhanced by the input of everyone involved.

Read interviews with individuals leading the way in digital in the region from our Bristol Digital Leaders series:

Q&A with Luke Aikman, CEO at Nudge Digital

Q&A with Lidia Drzewiecka, founder of Visuable

Q&A with Nick Dean, MD at ADLIB

Q&A with Oli Ward, founder of Develop Me

  • Take a look at our case studies for the innovate2succeed programme.

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