Leaders and Emerging Technology

The rapid pace of technological change requires leaders to be open-minded, creative, and flexible. Leadership and technology, referred to as e-leadership, are interconnected and mutually-reinforcing, amalgamating basic concepts of leadership with increasingly sophisticated communications technology, virtual team-building, and collaborative software (Phelps, 2014). In order to affect long-term value creation, leaders will be compelled to seek, understand, and use new technology at the same or greater pace than peer competitors. Seeking out and testing new software or digital platforms cannot remain the historical responsibility of the IT department or company information manager. Leaders will require technical, organizational, and communication skills to utilize advances in the digital marketplace while being proactive in training subordinates on the use of cutting edge-technology (Phelps, 2014).


The speed at which information flows and the study of ‘big data’ is significantly changing the marketplace. Davenport (2014) suggests leaders must comprehend that knowledge can transverse the globe near-instantaneously, requiring transparency, the willingness to consult multiple sources for problem-solving, and the ability to make decisions faster than competitors. Leaders who do not isolate themselves within their organizations and embrace the collaborative properties of the Net will increase the value of their organization (Weinberger, 2011). Additionally, the workplace has changed by the study of the digital traces created when users interact with the digital domain; these traces create data which can be manipulated to understand the behaviors of individuals and groups (Davenport, 2014). This data can used to understand ways to increase marketplace value and provide customers products based on their activities within the Web.

Week 7 Data


The speed at which information travels may be one reason Google Glass failed. While the company publicly provided its intent to create a digital product that could be worn as eyewear, Google failed to enact an information management plan that encouraged the use of the failed product (Metz, 2014). Nevertheless, wearable devices will gain popularity as they enhance the ability to interact with the increasing number of Net-enabled smart-objects in our homes and work environments (Gartner, 2014). When, not if, connectivity with data and the internet becomes ubiquitous, as depicted in the Corning (2011 and 2012) videos, even our clothing may provide us the ability to interact with the Web (Kelly, 2011).

Kelly (2011)

Kelly (2011) suggests two critical ideas for leaders to consider: a) everything can be shared, and data is “always there, always on”; and b) “where our attention goes, money will follow.” The number of global internet users in 2014 was 2.8 billion and continues to grow; in fact, internet users are often the first source for news and information, gathering data far faster than established news networks, distributing “just-in-time information” (Meeks, 2015). Today’s leader must be far-sighted, looking at methods and trends just beyond the horizon to enhance her workforce and create value for her organization. The internet has changed nearly every aspect of business, and the savvy leader will be able to exploit developing technology while maintaining the characteristic traits of the transformative leader.

Meeks (2015)


Corning. (2011, February 24). A day made of glass: Corning’s vision for the future with specialty glass at the heart of it video. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com

Corning. (2012, February 4). A day made of glass 2. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com

Davenport, B. (2014). From A to Google: How technology is impacting information and leadership. Journal of Leadership Studies, 8(2), 41-45.

Gartner. (2014, February 24). Gartner identifies top 10 mobile technologies and capabilities for 2015 and 2016. Retrieved from http://www.gartner.com

Kelly, K. (2011, July 22). Attention flows: the future of the digital media landscape. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com

Meeks, M. (2015, May 26). 2015 internet trends report. Retrieved from http://www.slideshare.net

Metz, R. (2014, November 26). Google Glass is dead: Long live smart glasses. Retrieved from http://www.technologyreview.com

Phelps, K. C. (2014). “So much technology, so little talent?” Skills for harnessing technology for leadership outcomes. Journal of Leadership Studies, 8(2), 51-56.

Weinberger, D. (2011). Too big to know. New York: Basic Books.



13 thoughts on “Leaders and Emerging Technology

  1. Hi Chris,
    I really enjoyed your blog this week. You packed some really important lessons into one concise topic. I found myself pausing after most of your sentences to reflect on the deeper meaning behind your analysis. For example, I reflected on the sentence “Today’s leader must be far-sighted, looking at methods and trends just beyond the horizon to enhance her workforce and create value for her organization”. Powerful thought and difficult application when we consider how fast technology is evolving today.
    With the rapid growth of technology and new related trends, how do you suggest a leader best put this into practice?
    I was reading an article this week from TechRepublic (http://www.techrepublic.com/blog/10-things/10-ways-to-stay-on-top-of-emerging-technologies/, 2014) that suggested one way to keep up with technology trends is to get outside your department or industry. Through the ILD program, I have seen the great benefit of interacting in an interdisciplinary nature with our cohort and feel that this has allowed me to gain a better understanding of theory and appreciation of leadership application from diverse perspectives. Do you agree with that this is a good way for a leader to keep up with emerging technologies and how would that look outside a formal education program such as the one we are currently in?


    1. Thank-you Kristin, and great questions as well. I mention the importance of a leader following emerging technological trends because I have failed in this regard. I am hesitant to explore new methods to improve work productivity because what I am familiar with allows me to meet work objectives, such as using simple applications like Outlook’s calendar to create meeting requests. However, I know there are multiple programs that would allow me to more easily connect with geographically-dispersed peers or organize my work data. I need to be proactive in seeking the technological means to make me a more efficient leader. This is far easier said than done! I like your suggestion of seeking help from adjacent departments in my organization or outside of it. If I remove myself from the “familiar,” I would likely notice numerous ways to improve my productivity.



  2. Nice post, Chris. Like Kristin, I too thought that your ending was both conceptually powerful and practically difficult! The ability “…to exploit developing technology while maintaining the characteristic traits of the transformative leader…” is not a given, but some aspects of technology could facilitate this. Bass noted that transformational leaders raise awareness, create a culture of sharing, look for the common good, and allow freedom of choice for followers. In many ways, that mirrors the open web.


    1. Great point Dr. Watwood! I did not consider how the traditional characteristics of the transformational leader may lead to a greater understanding of the Net. I need to remember that I cannot ignore developing technology simply because it is easier to use methods I am used to.


  3. Many provocative thoughts! You cited Kelly, noting “where our attention goes, money will follow.” We are experiencing this and it has me wondering again about our early weeks in this course of a flat or spiky world. So much resource is going into technology development and use, and yet increasing numbers of people are being “left behind” whether that be in access to education, healthcare, housing, jobs, etc. Maybe this is how new eras or economies emerge and eventually it will level out. We won’t know for a few decades. If that is the case, leadership in this milieu is all the more important to advance organizations, communities, and societies. While I think the implications of technology are important for any organization (as applicable) technology is permeating every single aspect of our lives. The implications for this are also significant. Thus, when we think about the role of leadership, perhaps our boundaries need to be extended far beyond our organizational walls.

    For example, in healthcare my thinking shifted a few years ago regarding the role of my organization and healthcare in general. Health status occurs 24/7/365 for every individual – we only see people for the very short time they come through our doors for care/service. In fact, when I step back and consider what is really happening, we experience what is broken or fragmented in the community for people. Certainly physical health is something that can be addressed but the host of issues (e.g. stress, lack of education, lack of housing, jobs, dysfunctional family situation, personal behaviors, etc.) people live with influence their health status. Technology may exacerbate these issues and in some situations it can help. We have a lot of technology and we think it would be great to use it to improve people’s health. The reality is that we must start with the people side first and then figure out what is the right technology for the situation and how will it help, augment, or improve the current situation. The intersection of people and technology is, in my opinion, the most important phenomenon to understand and we are barely scratching the surface.


    1. Raven,

      If I understand your post correctly, you suggest we first understand the underlying problem before attempting to solve the issue with technology that may not be best suited to the solution. Your post gave me an epiphany! I think my reluctance to use newer technology stems from my two decades in the military. Our unit, and many others, were constantly being requested to use “the newest and best ever” software or hardware to solve military and administrative problems; it did not matter if the technology was still in its beta condition or actually created for another occupational field. While I understand that testing is critical to developing technological solutions, my peers and I were frequently constrained to attempt to learn a new software package with no technical support. While this is more a condition of poor planning by the research testing teams, it did not increase my desire to seek unproven technological methods to improve our unit’s readiness.



      1. We use a particular problem solving process in my organization and one of the patterns or themes I uncovered several years ago listening and discussing the respective proposals was that these were solutions looking for problems. Individuals had already figured out what they wanted to implement without understanding the problem they were trying to solve. This happens all the time – and in a written document I can see the flow of thinking. I push for critical thinking to understand problems first through data and countermeasures. This to me is a significant challenge for leadership as we have finite resources and thus, how will we decide to use them?


      2. There is a term for that, Raven – Garbage Can Management. In the garbage-can theory (Cohen, March, and Olsen 1972) an organization “is a collection of choices looking for problems, issues and feelings looking for decision situations in which they might be aired, solutions looking for issues to which they might be the answer, and decision makers looking for work”. Problems, solutions, participants, and choice opportunities flow in and out of a garbage can, and which problems get attached to solutions is largely due to chance.

        This originally came out of studies of the military!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve always considered the idea of Google Glass thought provoking, but with a bit of an ironic twist. I repeatedly doubted the potential success of that project not because of the technology that it brought to the table, but rather that is assumed that people would want to wear glasses. The crux of this seems like a race between improving vision correction technologies and Google’s development of a fashion accessory. I have no doubt that Google Glass would have saved us the horrifying amount of time we spend taking our smartphones out of our pockets, but I feared that that technology would become the next Segway. I can see applications in healthcare and other industries where people need use of their hands, but ultimately you have to ask why would you wear glasses if you don’t have to? There is a level of social awkwardness to Google Glass unlike other technologies that have taken the world by storm and I wonder if this eventually caused the project to disappoint?


    1. Cam,

      As someone constrained to wear glasses, I concur with you; I would not wear glasses if required. My only counter to your accurate thought is that people choose to wear non-prescription sunglasses. I consider Google Glass to have failed due to privacy fears. While the public may be recorded at any moment by mobile device cameras or video recorders, Google Glass presented an overt means for a user to instantly gather data. I do not share these fears, but I can sympathize with some of those who coined the term “glassholes” (Metz, 2014). However, once wearable technology is less obtrusive, I have little doubt that it will become as popular as the smartphone.



      Metz, R. (2014, November 26). Google Glass is dead: Long live smart glasses. Retrieved from http://www.technologyreview.com


      1. I must admit I find it a little unnerving that a face to face discussion could be recorded using technology like Google Glass, but I also realize much of that technology already exists and I can often think of the times when it would have come in handy. Working as a paramedic I would have loved to have a “body cam” or Google Glass type of device as many police departments do. So for all the downside and privacy concerns maybe once there is some social etiquette in place such technology may make it to popular culture.


  5. Chris-

    Your post reminded me of two things that as a leader I struggle with, the need to adapt and technologically change in an organization with little to no competition from the private sector and how generationally as the worker evolves and changes they bring new expectations. The most important part of these new expectations that the younger generation of worker brings must be met because if my laggard technologically changing organization does not start to and strive to keep up technologically the talent that we need will seek other opportunities.

    Even though several reasons exist why my organization does not adapt technologically at a fast pace the primary one is they do not see the need to increase transparency because their stakeholders do not demand more from them. If this were to change I believe that the level of transparency would increase, but until this occurs I do not see it changing. This coincides with the lack of e-leadership and the minimization of having workers teleworking and branching out virtually. A struggle that I face is trying to get my organization to buy into virtual work. The primary fear that holds the organization back is they are afraid that if they allow more technological adaptation then the need for senior leadership will be reduced, physical offices will be closed costing jobs, and the manner is which the organization is run will fundamentally change.

    I feel stuck in the middle of this argument. I want more e-leadership and to lead from a technological mindset but I am also stuck in the past as well. Before this class I was more closed minded about adapting technology but the dichotomy now that I face is do I push for more technological adaptation and risk my job for the good of the organization or keep the status quo and keep plugging away. I do not know what will occur, just that eventually time will tell.


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