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The C - TBC - O: Leadership Roles Required in the Digital Era

16/06/2014 11:22 BST | Updated 13/08/2014 10:59 BST

What's your job title? I am a Chief Happiness Officer, and you? I am a Chief Internet Evangelist. As unreal as it may sound, these job titles do exist. They are part of a wave of new corporate positions being created as companies look to expand their formalised leadership beyond the traditional remit of operations, finance and marketing.

However, in the digital age, businesses should not be focused on these somewhat spurious titles but on developing leadership roles across areas that are genuinely driving business growth and preventing commercial failure in the digital era. But what are these leadership roles and what would they entail?

Chief Insight Officer

The birth of the digital era has kick-started a period of data-orientated thinking. As digital has grown, so too has the amount of data available across all areas: social buzz, transactional information, online market research and syndicated research for sale. This has resulted in a data deluge - yet there is often nobody at leadership level to synthesise the pieces of the digital data puzzle and generate insight at a corporate level. A Chief Insight Officer would be tasked with such a role - giving the business a leadership figure with a 360 degree data-orientated view.

Chief Innovation Officer

The digitisation of innovation has enabled product and communications development to break the boundaries of expectation by a considerable margin. Digital has enabled greater co-creation, more gateways for consumer feedback and new arenas to test ideas. Yet despite widened points of innovation, nobody owns it, and nobody leads it. Product development, research and insight, creative and marketing can all stake a claim. This means innovation is potentially poorly coordinated between these units and they are not working in unison - something which is vital in an area where more heads mean more ideas. A Chief Innovation Officer would give the gathering of thoughts and development of creativity a focal point - resulting in more aligned, and strategic creative ideas, company-wide.

Chief Reputation Officer

The value of reputation has never been more important in an era where the majority of companies' assets are held in softer, intellectual assets. However, the digitisation of communication has meant that reputation has never been more under threat. Online petitions, social media and the digital rumour mill mean reputation shattering stories now spread at a much faster pace vs. the pre-digital era. Yet, who is currently in place at leadership level to preserve this most vital of assets? Furthermore, within organisations with a wide stable of brands, who owns communicative coherence? (a core reputational facet) A Chief Reputation Officer role would potentially help a business have a go-to leader in times of reputational crisis as well as a point of communicative coherence for organisations, especially conglomerates with many sub-brands.

Chief Trust Officer

The digital era has had a polarising effect on the dynamics of trust in society. On a positive note, a digitised society means that a greater degree of transparency exists due to ease of exposure via the Internet. However, such transparency has resulted in more businesses being exposed to unethical practices - leading to a decrease in trust for the corporate world. However, what is certain is that trust in business is more important than ever before. Some businesses such as EBay are essentially run on principals of trust. Conversely, other sectors, such as banking, have had their reputation tarnished due to declines in trust. Despite this, trust is another unowned area in business but its fledging value to commercial success means it needs to be owned at a leadership level.

In short, the digital era has created new ways of thinking, communicating and selling. And therefore the new ways of leading and the roles such as those described above would be well-placed to assist business growth in a digital society.