Forbes: What leaders need to thrive in the post-digital era

Forbes: What leaders need to thrive in the post-digital era

Image courtesy of Getty.

Irma Becerra is president of Marymount University, a comprehensive doctoral-granting university known for its innovative curriculum.

Much has been written about the business benefits of the Digital Era, or the Information Age. In the post-digital era, radical change is the new normal in life and business. One of the main reasons global economies didn’t halt during the pandemic is that IT enabled employees to continue working remotely, e-business continued to power retail and technology supported all aspects of our life, from entertainment to vaccine research.

Yet, many leaders in the post-digital era still struggle to regain footing after the global pandemic turned the world upside down. We live in a time of rapid change, which brings new responsibilities and pressing challenges daily.

Take AI, for instance. Never have leaders experienced such a steep learning curve. As leaders, we must rapidly process data and information while balancing emotion with reason. Learning new and effective ways to communicate and engage with remote employees brings many unique challenges. Add recession fears and budget constraints to the mix, and leadership just got a whole lot tougher!

As an engineer, I rely on methodologies to bring order to my busy days. I meet challenges head-on and make decisions based on courage and empathy. Data drives my actions. I cannot think of a better way to lead, especially given the uncertain economic times and rapidly shifting global workforce.

Here are five things leaders intent on thriving in the post-digital era should keep front of mind:

  1. Get comfortable being uncomfortable.

I learned very young that difficult decisions are a part of life. Reflecting on my many challenging experiences, I am proud of the times I pushed past fear and accomplished great things while uncomfortable.

For instance, while pursuing a degree in engineering, I was often the only woman in a classroom full of men. And as a new college graduate working for a power company, I made middle-of-the-night trips to check on the state of the electric power grid. Decades later, as a university president, I am comfortable being uncomfortable because I know from experience that, more often than not, taking bold steps leads to progress.

Not everyone will be happy or willing to get behind you on big decisions. This year, I was required to make many tough judgment calls and hard decisions. The circumstances I needed to handle were painful and incredibly difficult, but remaining complacent in trying times was never an option.

  1. Don’t be afraid to embrace technological change.

The rapid pace of AI across sectors is both exciting and intimidating. It is no longer a luxury—leaders must embrace technological advancements or risk falling behind the curve. Ensure your organization leverages technology effectively and aligns its strategies with the digital landscape. As leaders, we must identify areas for technological improvements. Doing so will help ensure the success of your organization is sustainable.

Five years ago, I recognized our university needed to catch up technologically and commenced the institution’s complete digital transformation. The cost and effort involved in overhauling our entire IT system were high. But because we made long-overdue improvements, we were able to operate the university from the cloud during the pandemic.

The world of work is ever-evolving and requires leaders to be responsible, adaptable and open-minded. Encourage a culture of innovation within your organization and ask your teams to be willing to explore new ideas, strategies and technologies. By embracing technological change, you can capitalize on emerging opportunities and stay ahead of the competition. Change brings progress and breakthroughs, so never hesitate to step up with the assurance to do hard things differently.

  1. Invest wholeheartedly in continuous learning.

Fostering a culture of continuous learning is good for businesses and employees. Encourage your employees to grow professionally, and prioritize providing training opportunities not only when your budget allows. Also, continuously expand your knowledge base—leaders can and should continue to learn and grow. The post-digital era demands a growth mindset. Model this behavior and encourage your employees to do the same.

  1. Build and support resilient and agile teams.

When you bring together employees with varied talents and skills, productivity increases and success happens. Hiring cognitively diverse people can foster a culture of collaboration and adaptability. Empower your teams to take ownership of their work, make decisions and respond quickly to changing circumstances. Above all else, drive home the message that innovation comes from being OK with failure. Nothing halts progress quicker than fear of failure, so encourage your employees to take chances and bold actions. Pushing past setbacks is critical to progress but far from easy. Therefore, consistently reward grit, tenacity and determination in your employees.

Several months ago, I made a critical but unpopular decision. Some employees resistant to change were not happy and let me know it. I was immensely grateful for the employees who chose to stand behind me and made a point to thank each one personally for their support. Continue to remind your teams that the organization would be nothing without their commitment, dedication and hard work in good and bad times.

  1. Prioritize communication and connection.

Communication is hard. Even for naturally good communicators, pressures at work and home make putting in the effort to have conversations or start discussions last on the list for leaders and team members alike. Effective communication has always been a crucial leadership skill, but it has become more vital in the post-digital era.

Open communication channels make goals easier to establish, and productivity increases. Encouraging open communication in meetings and incorporating Q&A sessions in all-hands-on-deck gatherings can foster a culture of transparency and engagement. Get creative, but by all means, ensure communication happens.


Times are rapidly changing, and there is much you can do to lead your organization to success in the post-digital era. Prioritize your organization’s digital transformation, and you will better position yourself to lead from a position of strength.