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How Strong Leaders Handle Digital Disruption

Digital transformation leader and EMBA student, Daniel Häggmark, explains the skills leaders need to thrive with today’s rapid technological change


By  Bethany Garner

Mon Dec 21 2020


Digital disruption is changing the world of business—and fast. With the rapid development of technologies like AI, the IoT, and automation, one study by Deloitte found that 75% of executives believe digital technology is fundamentally changing their organization.

This disruption is a force that Daniel Häggmark navigates daily, and as an Executive MBA student at Nanyang Business School (NBS), he is developing the technical and leadership skills he needs to handle it. 

Daniel is managing director of Monitor ERP Systems Asia—a manufacturing software firm helping SMEs modernize and grow through digitalization.

Although he is currently based in Malaysia, Daniel joined Monitor in his home country of Sweden. A large project in Singapore took him to Asia, and local demand persuaded the firm to establish a new office in the region—which Daniel enthusiastically oversaw.

When his staff ballooned from three to 45, however, he saw an opportunity to further develop as a leader.

“I’m a self-taught leader, so when the company grew, I felt it was time to upskill,” Daniel explains.

An Executive MBA (EMBA) was the ideal solution since it would allow him to study and work at the same time—applying new insights as soon as he learned them. 

The Nanyang Executive MBA at NBS is tailored to senior leaders like Daniel, who want to keep up with today’s constantly changing business world and find opportunities that emerge from the disruption.

Daniel shares some key skills for leaders handling digital disruption, which his EMBA is helping him to hone.

A strong sense of purpose

Changing the way people work is considerably more challenging than installing new technologies, Daniel reflects.

But conveying a clear vision for the transformation can help. A strong mission and set of values are crucial components for digital disruption leaders. These fundamental points inform not only the workplace atmosphere, but also day-to-day strategic decisions.

With a strong goal always in mind, managers can make consistent decisions, and better communicate their intentions.  

“If you don’t understand these fundamentals, it’s impossible to drive your people to change,” Daniel notes. “Whatever tech changes occur, a company’s core values are extremely important.”

Studying the EMBA at NBS has only cemented Daniel’s belief that managing change requires a blend of vision and tech savviness. It is precisely this blend that brought him to NBS.

The school is part of the research-intensive Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore), home to a major tech and innovation ecosystem. 

The EMBA itself places emphasis on the latest tech developments like AI, automation, and digitalization, taught by faculty with consulting experience in areas from big data to blockchain.

Leveraging these new technologies in a business setting requires a strong set of leadership skills, which the Nanyang EMBA is poised to impart. 

Executives in the program have access to personal leadership coaching, designed to build on their current capabilities and develop new methods to drive performance in their workplace.


Leveraging creativity

Maintaining a creative culture is another key skill for leaders handling digital disruption. Fostering a creative mindset in your team ensures that new ideas flow quickly, which is vital for agile work.

The Nanyang EMBA is helping Daniel to think outside the box when it comes to technological developments, he reports.

“We often study cases that focus on different tech developments—it really widens your thinking,” he says.

Along with these tech-focused case studies, the Nanyang EMBA offers students regular “future of technology” talks—inviting c-suite leaders and Nanyang academics to discuss how future technology trends like quantum computing and renewable energy could disrupt the world of business.

But workplace creativity should equally come from employees, who deal with client issues every day, rather than company leaders alone, Daniel believes.

“If you don’t foster a culture of creativity and openness—encouraging employees to raise their contributions—you will have limited success,” he explains. “Hierarchy can stifle communication and idea generation since no one wants to speak up. You can’t suddenly force creativity.”

To ensure employees feel confident raising ideas and concerns, leaders must develop their emotional intelligence—something Daniel and his peers are doing through the Nanyang EMBA. 

The recently launched "Leader as a Coach" program trains executives to build strong mentor-mentee relationships with their team in order to promote trust and growth.

Developing cultural dexterity

The ability to work across geographies and cultures is another important leadership skill for handling digital disruption.

The recent explosion in communication technologies has made the world feel smaller than ever before and working with colleagues or clients from different cultures is fast becoming the norm. 

To lead such diverse teams through digital transformation, managers need a deep understanding of how to work and communicate across cultures, Daniel believes.

The Nanyang EMBA is helping Daniel to better understand how cultural differences emerge in a professional setting and develop his cross-cultural communication skills.

With its strategic location in the heart of Asia, NBS is well-placed to help leaders further their insights into the Asian business landscape, through both Asia-based case studies, and guest speakers from leading organizations in the region.

“In the EMBA, we had a course on Cultural Intelligence, which I found fascinating and useful,” Daniel adds. “We covered topics such as how to communicate across cultures, and why certain work cultures develop.”

Studying in a culturally diverse cohort also gives students the chance to practice their growing skills in this area. In the EMBA program at NBS, participants come from 15 different nationalities, and 20 different industries.

“Our class is a great mix of people, and it’s interesting to hear their different perspectives during discussions,” he reflects.

Having this understanding is a vital component of his work with Monitor, which requires dealing with clients from several Asian cultures. 

As the pace of technological change continues to accelerate, the leadership skills that Daniel is developing through the EMBA will ensure he is well-equipped to leverage the one constant in the modern workplace: people.

“Because of the EMBA, I am better able to define my strengths as a leader, and I’m very happy with the journey so far,” he concludes.

For its emphasis on leading through innovation, Daniel would highly recommend the NBS EMBA program to other business leaders looking to adapt themselves to a tech-driven business world.

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