From conventional to digital leadership: exploring digitalization of leadership and innovative work behavior

Management Research Review

ISSN : 2040-8269

Article publication date: 13 January 2022

Issue publication date: 19 October 2022

The leadership shift from conventional to digital comes from the compulsory digitalization of the workplace because the technological progress provides the opportunity of doing work remotely, and this is a great advantage of reducing costs that stem from the offline workplace. Thus, this research aims at demonstrating the relationship between digitalization of leadership and innovative work behavior.


Data were collected from 320 Turkish department managers in the Textile Industry through digital leadership and innovate work behavior scales. The hypotheses were tested using path analysis. The analyses were conducted by using SPSS and AMOS package programs.

The results show that the employees’ perceptions of digital leadership have a positive and significant effect on all dimensions of an employee innovative work behavior. Also, the leaders with high digital skills were perceived positively by the employees and the employees tend to adapt innovative behaviors when they have the digitally skilled leaders.


This study contributes to leadership research by providing evidence for the role of leadership shift in innovative work behavior. Extending the verification of leadership shift in innovative work behavior that can be adopted in Turkey has also been considered.

  • Digital leadership
  • Innovative work behavior
  • Leadership styles
  • Digitalization
  • Digital workplace

Erhan, T. , Uzunbacak, H.H. and Aydin, E. (2022), "From conventional to digital leadership: exploring digitalization of leadership and innovative work behavior", Management Research Review , Vol. 45 No. 11, pp. 1524-1543.

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2021, Emerald Publishing Limited


A leader has a critical importance in an organization since he/she has a role to select, equip, train and influence one or more followers ( Winston and Patterson, 2006 ). Also, when the follower(s) appreciate and feel connected with the leader(s), they are more motivated and ready to work enthusiastically rather than forced compliance ( House and Baetz, 1979 ). Constantly changing era brings out different leadership styles starting from the conventional which is based upon controlling, competitive and aggressive concept ( Lipman-Blumen, 1992 ). However, the role of leadership requires new capabilities to obtain a secure sustainability for the organizations, as the technological progress introduces many changes to the organizations, such as digitalization of work and the workplace. Conventional leadership refers to an approach that only considers the leaders and their functions by highlighting the concept as the sum of the leader’s performance in an organization. Also, the concept points out the performance in leadership as “the result of characteristics of the leaders and the environment” ( Barker, 2001 : 474). In the new era, the leaders need to follow technological developments and gain knowledge regarding the recent changes in organizational structures. These changes bring inevitable requirements to the organizations to be able to become a part of the digitalization in the world of business. As a result, in comparison to the conventional leadership, the need for digital leadership emerges since today’s organizations tends to transform into digital workplace that refers to “the physical, cultural and digital arrangements that simplify working life in complex, dynamic and often unstructured working environments ( Dery et al. , 2017 : 136). This obligatory transformation from conventional to digital leadership provides a theoretical shift in the leadership literature from traditionally controlled manners to empathetic and skillful problem-solving perspectives.

The organizations require leaders with qualifications beyond those of simple behavioral and organizational management skills. In the context of a rapidly evolving and innovative digital landscape and in the face of increased globalization, it is equally, if not more important, for company leaders to stay abreast of developments in the digital sphere – for both their competitiveness and their survival. Survival of the organizations is important because changing technologies cause different expectations of customers or stakeholders; therefore, to be able to keep on producing in the marketplace, organizations should adapt their current conditions to the new developments in the technology. In a broader perspective, when customers or stakeholders explore the facilitation of the new technological development before the organization, this may result in changing the preferences of the customers and transferring to the other organization which can follow the new updates in the digital era. The digital era includes an approach which solves the sustainability and effectivity problems of the organizations through technological developments. The key point about the new era is that when the employees realize how important the digital world is, leaders are needed to deeply comprehend what it really means and be more conscious about the digitalization period of the 21st century ( Dorner and Edelman, 2015 ). Thus, in this global world, organizations require leaders with qualifications rather than a manager. In addition to pursuing the new technology, organizations’ needs such as human workforce have been one of the issues which may be overlooked among the other developments. Leaders have been expected to motivate this human workforce with different skills.

In leadership theory, digital leadership is described as the style of leadership that is a combination of transformation leadership style and the use of digital technology ( De Waal et al. , 2016 ). Scholars, who investigated different leadership styles, such as transformational leadership ( Li et al. , 2019 ), participative leadership ( Fatima et al. , 2017 ) or ethical leadership ( Iqbal et al. , 2020a ), have discussed the relationship between these leadership styles and innovative work behavior of the employees; however, there is still a dearth of research on how digitalization shapes understanding of leadership that refers to “digital leadership” in our research, and what the effect of digital leadership on innovative work behavior because digitalization processes create digital workplace and it is not known much by the practitioners ( Mihardjo et al. , 2019 ). In a dynamic world of business, organizations require to be socially and digitally connected through technology and take advantage of the digital era for all the stakeholders. Even though some research demonstrates that digital leadership improves and encourages digital teaching and learning ( Richardson et al. , 2012 ) or digital leadership has been the interest of practitioners in the higher education field ( Antonopoulou, 2020 ; Yusof et al. , 2019 ), the research related to the understanding the role of digital leadership in encouraging or discouraging innovative work behavior is scarce. Also, as innovative work behaviour is a critical factor to achieve organizational success, the question of how digital leadership shapes this type of behavior is critical to provide theoretical evidence to the leadership literature. For this reason, we aim at demonstrating the effect of digital leadership on innovation work behavior in the research. Besides, it is stated that following the digital developments and implementing them into each sector of business are essential for both future collaborations and being the industry in demand for all the stakeholders. Being a digital organization with a digitally skilled leader can provide quick responses to the changing multi-cultural network in the world and transform the organization a constant openness to change, in other words, make the employees ready for something new each day when they are at work ( Litvinenko, 2020 ). Regarding the reality and necessity of having the digitally developed organizations with highly digitally equipped leaders, sectors regardless of the product or service can obtain competitive advantages. This superiority is evaluated and examined within the textile industry in the current study. As the garment types or styles are shaped by the preferences of the societies, it is challenging to catch up with the latest and trendy pieces of textile products for the textile organizations. Specifically, as for some countries, the garments require plenty of embroideries or patches which should be produced with great attention and rapidly to meet the demands of the market. With the help of the digital technology, digital embroidery techniques ( Oliver, 2016 ) can be used to improve the approaches of the employees and let them implement their own imagination reflect on the technological designs of the garments. In addition to creative and competitive products in the textile industry, the recycled products should be produced by the organizations in the 21st century withing the hardships of the changing climate and limited natural resources. Thus, meeting the need of the consumers with different clothing choices, the organizations which can use and implement the digital technologies produce harmless products to the environment and can be preferred in the global market. Because textile industries are one of the biggest polluters in the world during the production and delivery process ( Luque Gonzalez, 2018 ). Besides, the textile industry is one of the most productive sectors with small- or big-sized organizations, a sector that almost everyone is to some extent is included in the production and consumption chain ( Luján-Ornelas et al. , 2020 ). For the textile organizations to follow up the newest and latest innovations, leaders are considered as the sources of the innovative culture and approaches. As it is stated in the report by one of the important textile companies, successful garment sectors will be leading the future’s textile industry by using the latest automation technologies, and these will provide contribution to the innovation of the new products ( TURKONFED, 2018 ). However, to be able to compete within the technological era, well-known leadership styles may not be sufficient, so another leadership style is required to manage the present digital environment effectively by not totally disregarding the conventional types of leadership but uniting all the leadership skills to apply and spread the idea of innovation within the organizations ( Haddud and McAllen, 2018 ). Therefore, this study examines and attempts to reveal the importance of digital leadership and its effect on innovative work behavior which is the productive work outcome for all the organizations.

The current study has four main sections following on the introduction. First, we theorize digital leadership based on the literature. Second, we conceptualize innovative work behavior to understand how the concept can be considered within the context of this research. Third, we discuss both digital leadership and innovative work behavior to present the hypotheses of this study. Finally, we discuss and conclude our paper.

Theorizing digital leadership

Digitalization has been considered as the cause of the emergence of the destructive consequences of the leadership practices ( Bennis, 2013 ). For the organizations, it is essential to catch up with the digital age and to avoid these destructive consequences, thus leaders’ cooperation skills, orchestration ability, creativity and following the beneficial practices play an important to be able to survive in the digital world ( Beresford, 2018 ). This importance has caused the emergence of a new leadership approach different from the focus on “commanding and controlling” leadership. ( Timurcanday Özmen et al. , 2020 ). This approach develops the organization digitally experienced, successful and skillful by highlighting the leaders’ digital intelligence ( Kane et al. , 2015 ). Toduk (2014) distinguishing the traditional leadership from the leadership of the digital era, has stated as “digital leadership”, and marked the innovation ability, digital skills, strong networks, cooperation, participation and visionary as the most important aspects of these leaders. This point of view about the features of the leaders which Copeland (2016) and Du Toit et al. (2017) stated as “driving force” has overlapped.

Digital leadership has been defined as individuals who add value to the organizations by combining the abilities of the leaders with digital technologies ( Rudito and Sinaga, 2017 ). Digital leaders are the leaders who manage the digital transformation processes in a consistent way, and adapt multiple leadership approaches (transformational, transactional, etc.) by providing competitive advantages with a strategic point of view ( Sow and Aborbie, 2018 ). According to Mihardjo and Sasmoko (2019) , digital leadership, which is also stated as the combination of digital culture and digital competencies, has been based on the Upper Echelons Theory. The theory, developed by Hambrick and Mason (1984) , states that strong managers are the significant factor affecting and implementing the strategic decisions of the organization, and the power has been considered to determine the performance and success of the organizations directly. Besides, the theory has assumed that this power has come from the leaders’ knowledge for future events, and accurate predictions, competencies, educational background and work experience. Thus, it can be stated that the digital competencies of the leaders are the power for the organizations and employees.

El Sawy et al. (2016) consider digital leadership as an approach that ensures the strategic success of digitalization for the enterprise and its organizational ecosystem. However, the environmental context for organizations are quite volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous for creating fast (re)actions. For this reason, it is critical to have certain characteristics for being a digital leader. The characteristics are the combination of agile, participative, networking and open leaderships ( Petry, 2018 ). While agile characteristics identify critical issues and different scenarios ( Rigby et al. , 2016 ), participative characteristics use the knowledge of employees, as they cannot know everything in an organization ( Pearce and Conger, 2002 ). Also, networking and open characteristics demonstrate the positive responses of the digital leaders to any criticism in the process of creating networks amongst the employees ( Petry, 2018 ; Li, 2010 ). All required characteristics and definitions of the digital leadership demonstrate that it has a trust-based approach in any managing and operation process of enterprises.

Conceptualizing innovative work behavior

The rapid change in technology has required organizations to innovate to ensure the organizations’ competitiveness and sustainability ( Iqbal et al. , 2020b ). For this reason, organizations have been seeking revisions in many areas such as work design ( Bysted, 2013 ). As digitalization has caused changes in customer demands, the need for employees to show innovative behaviors, seeking new ways to meet the demands has also been increasing ( Li et al. , 2019 ).

Innovative work behavior has been defined as behaviors related to initiating, directing and conducting new or useful ideas/products, work processes and procedures for the organizations ( De Jong, 2006 ). As a multi-stage process, innovative work behavior ( Sethibe and Steyn, 2017 ) is a motivational situation that is affected by the employees’ knowledge, skills and experiences ( Bammens, 2016 ). Innovative work behavior is a complex behavior, which positively affects organizational and individual performance, reveals and develops innovative ideas and requires extra role behavior ( Janssen, 2000 ). It has been stated that innovative people are more willing than others to experience trial-error and risk-taking ( Sönmez and Yıldırım, 2014 ). All behaviors to fulfill the organizational goals such as new methods, new technologies and searching and developing new techniques and providing all the sources have been addressed in innovative work behavior ( Yuan and Woodman, 2010 ; Kheng et al. , 2013 ). De Jong and Den Hartog (2010) and Stoffers et al. (2014) conceptualize innovative work behavior as containing four dimensions: idea exploration (IE), idea generation (IG), idea championing (IC) and idea implementation (II). We discuss these four dimensions with digital leadership in the next section.

Digital leadership and innovative work behavior

Organizations are in an inevitable and stiff competition which requires them to become a part of the digital world to survive in the market and provide sustainability of their operations. To adapt the aforementioned changing environment, the organizations need to adopt a transformation from conventional to digital perspective in their operations and managerial practices through having leaders who have a digital mindset ( Wagner et al. , 2019 ). While the leaders have a digital mindset, they should focus on work behavior of the employees who are amongst the intangible and valuable sources, as the employees face challenges and difficulties in the digitalization process of an organization. Specifically, the leaders with the ability to be fully coherent with the digital era have been considered to be more engaged with the innovative work behaviors. The digital leaders somehow adapt the recent technological developments and present the latest and most comfortable ways to reach the customers and employees which require to have leadership enhancing the adaptive culture of the organizations ( Alos-Simo et al. , 2017 ). As Mintzberg (2010) suggests, leaders are the individuals who achieve technical competencies, today’s leaders are required to be the first pursuers of the innovations of the digital world. Moreover, the young generation who are named as “digital natives” will be or have already been a candidate of the future leaders ( Johansen, 2012 ); therefore, these upcoming leader candidates automatically can establish a digital organizational structure.

In the near future, by the changing rules of the conventional leadership, leaders are required to be equipped with digital skills, establish strong network, be collaborative, adopt a participative management approach and, most importantly, acquire entrepreneurship and innovation skills to be successful ( Toduk, 2014 ). It is important to perceive innovative perspective as leaders; however, the leaders’ followers have also been expected to be a part of a team who adopt innovation process as their leaders. Digital leaders, who are considered among the transformational leaders, should play a proactive role to achieve the organizational goals and objectives; by doing so, leaders can increase the motivation of their employees and encourage innovative and creative ideas. This approach reinforces the role of the leaders in the development of the employees’ innovative behaviors ( Chen, 2014 ). It has been stated that to fulfill the role in improving the innovative work behavior of employees, digital leaders have been required to have the capability to know and use the information and communication technologies, new applications and new technologies such as communication technologies, cloud technology, big data, data analysis and to have business acumen including the business intelligence, ability to comprehend the business and strategic leadership skills ( Yücebalkan, 2020 ). Besides, it has been known that transformational leaders with digital competencies have more tendency ( Jung et al. , 2003 ) to share information, track innovative solutions to problems ( Jansen et al. , 2009 ) and form creative and innovative organizational culture in an appropriate, free and encouraging environment to reveal the ideas that support the innovativeness of the organizations. In addition, digital workplaces created by the leaders increase the productivity of the organizations with the help of the technologies. The implementation of new technologies provides an environment that reinforces innovation, enables innovative efforts by integrating information technologies with production processes and facilitates the development of innovative services and products ( Haddud and McAllen, 2018 ).

Transformation from conventional to digital leadership process includes considering the four dimensions of innovative work behavior to create a digital workplace and to reach higher productivity of employees in an organization. The first is idea exploration that refers to:

the perceived extent of support that innovation toolkits provide in terms of exploring information about published innovations and customer needs and preferences, as well as market trends, which helps in developing new ideas ( Ye, 2018 : 428).

Digital leadership is positively and significantly associated with idea exploration.

Digital leadership is positively and significantly associated with idea generation.

Digital leadership is positively and significantly associated with idea championing.

Digital leadership is positively and significantly associated with idea implementation.

Digital leadership, as it is assumed to have the effect on innovative work behavior, has been also claimed to improve through the purposeful use of technology ( Sheninger, 2019 ). By implementing digital technology for the purposeful use, and when it is perceived as an innovation in the organizations employees can have the opportunity to go beyond the daily routines and have the need to do more search about the new technologies ( Masood and Afsar, 2017 ). Besides, it is one of the crucial requirements of all the organizations to follow the new technological developments and benefit from the advantages. Organizations improve themselves and keep their long-term competitiveness by having high perception of innovative work behavior (( Domínguez-Escrig et al. , 2019 ). However, acquiring the new technology rapidly and applying it in the organization not only requires an innovative perspective but also digitally talented leaders who are also known with high digital literacy ( Santoso, et al. , 2019 ) which facilitates to comprehend how to adapt the developments successfully and make the employees to become a part of this constant digitally innovative process.

Severe global competition both among the employees and the organizations can be managed following the requirements of the current and sudden technological changes in the world of industry. Thus, having digitally developed organizations are considered being one of the significant priorities in the societies which provide competitive advantage. Besides, leaders with digital interest or skill can follow the latest technological developments easier than the leaders who manage the organizations using the traditional leadership style.

Digitally talented leaders may know how to face with the new non-stop in other words 7/24 increasing changes and gain familiarity in the digital platforms. Thus, the current study highlights a strong emphasis on the digital leadership to experience more and high innovative work behavior which is one of the key sources of the sustainability of the organizations and natural shield in case of unexpected events such as the COVID-19 pandemic or disasters.

Research method

According to the 2019 data, textile sector ranks as the third with 17.7% share in Turkey’s export ( Turkish Exporters Assembly [TIM], 2020 : 16). Denizli province is one of the first place in the rankings famous for its textile reputation, and every one of the four employees has been working in the textile sector ( Government of Denizli, 2020 ). There are 180 textile factories manufacturing in 4 organized industrial zones in Denizli. These factories have been rapidly going through the digitalization process. As a matter of fact, the factories in this region have been chosen as a pilot digitalization application area by Turkish Industry and Business Association (TÜSİAD), since the increase in productivity provided by digitalization is expected to be at a high level ( TÜSİAD, 2016 ). For this reason, the sample of the research was carried out with department managers in the textile sector, where technology is used and followed intensively. All 180 companies were contacted to participate in the research. However, due to the intense and dynamic work pace of the textile industry and the fact that some organizations do not allow data collection other than certain researchers, not all department managers could be reached. Only 95 department managers responded. Hence, 76% of the questionnaires were returned. The data of the study has been collected between September and October 2021. The questionnaire has been delivered to 440 people in total, 335 of them have responded, 15 of them have been eliminated due to the missing and incorrect information. The analyses have been done by using 320 questionnaires. As Anderson and Gerbing (1984) state; the sample size of should be at least 150, and Bentler and Chou (1987) emphasize that a sample of ten times of the items should be reached providing that the sample is distributed normally. According to Schumacker and Lomax (2004), it can be said that the data show normal distribution if the skewness and kurtosis coefficients take values in the range of ±1,5. In this study, the skewness and kurtosis coefficients are in these value ranges ( Table 3 ). The sample of this study is considered to meet the normal distribution condition (95% confidence level and 5% margin of error), and its size is evaluated as sufficient. The analyses have been done by using 320 questionnaires. 50.3% of the participants are woman, 78.8% of them are married, 83.1% have bachelor’s degree, the mean age of the participants is 38.5 (SD = 8.1) and the average tenure is 14.6 (SD = 8.7) years. The distribution of the participants according to the demographic characteristics is presented in Table 1 .

The digital leadership and innovative work behavior scales were used to collect the data of the study. Each scales’ items are rated on a five-point Likert scale (1 = strongly disagree to 5 = strongly agree). A biographical questionnaire was only used to collect some demographic information of the participants in this study. As such, this information was collected on gender, marital status, age groups, education level and tenure of the participants.

Digital leadership.

To measure the employees’ perceptions of digital leadership, “Informatics Leadership Scale” by Ulutaş and Arslan (2017) has been used. The scale has three dimensions with 6 items each, the 18-item scale in total has information, communication and orientation dimensions. There are no reverse coded questions in the scale. In this study, the orientation dimension’s 6 items have been used. The reason for assessing only the orientation dimension in the current study is that Ulutaş and Arslan (2017) have stated that this dimension represents the digital leadership. The scale has a five-point Likert type. (1: strongly disagree, 5: strongly agree). Sample item is “Raises awareness of the organization’s employees about the risks of information technologies”. In the scale validation study, Cronbach’s alpha has been calculated as 0.97.

Innovative work behavior.

“Innovative Work Behavior Measure” developed by De Jong and Den Hartog (2010) has been used. The Turkish adaptation of the scale has been done by Çimen and Yücel (2017) with four dimensions. The idea generation (IG), idea exploration (IE), idea championing (IC) and idea implementation (II) has 10 items each. The scale has a five-point Likert type. (1: never, 5: always). Sample item is “How often do you generate original solutions for problems?” Scale has no reverse coded items. In the validation study, Cronbach’s alpha coefficient has been calculated as 90, 0.88, 0.95, 0.82, respectively.

Measurement model evaluation

In the analysis of the data in the current study, SPSS 26 program has been used to identify the mean, standard error, reliability correlation values of the variables. Besides, to test the validity of the scaled used in the study, AMOS 24 program has been used. In this context, the validity of the scales has been tested with the confirmatory factor analysis. To measure the reliability of the scales, the internal consistency coefficient has been chosen. The path analysis has been used to test the effects of the variables in the study. In testing the structural equation modelling, maximum possibility and Bootstrap 5,000 samples and 95% bias corrected confidence interval methods have been used.

Anderson and Gerbing (1988) state that when structural equation modelling was used in the studies first, the measurement then the structural model should be tested. For this reason, the measurement model was tested first. If the measurement model provides good fit values, the structural model should be tested. The results obtained from the measurement model are shown in Table 2 . As it can be seen in Table 2 , the best fit values were obtained from the five-factor structure. It was determined that the goodness of fit value of the five-factor structure was in perfect fit ( Hu and Bentler, 1999 ; Kline, 1998 ).

Composite reliability (>0.70), average variance extracted (>0.50) and Cronbach’s α (>0.70) tests were done for the convergent and discriminant validity of the research model ( Fornell and Larcker, 1981 ; Hair et al. ,2012 ). As Table 3 shows, the results of the three tests are in the acceptable limits. Additionally, discriminant validity was analysed to examine whether a measurement is not a reflection of any other measurement or not. In this analysis, each of the square roots of AVE should be higher than the other correlation coefficients for adequate discriminant validity ( Fornell and Larcker, 1981 ). As presented in Table 4 , the square root of AVE for each variable is greater than the other correlation coefficients which indicate the discriminant validity is achieved. However, Harman’s single-factor was used to determine whether there was a common method variance error ( Podsakoff et al. , 2003 ). As a result of the analysis, it was determined that the single factor structure explained 36.7% of the total variance. When this ratio is below 50%, it shows that there is no common method variance problem.

In Table 4 , Pearson correlation analysis results have been presented to identify the relationships between the variables of the study. As it is indicated in Table 4 , it has been clearly stated that digital leadership has an average and significant relationship between the dimensions of innovative behavior’s idea generation, idea exploration, idea championing and idea implementation. In addition to this, there is an average and significant ( r = 0.787, p < . 01) relationship between digital leadership and innovative work behavior.

Structural model evaluation

In this level of the study, a structural equation modelling related to the research model has been established and good of fit values have been tested with the AMOS package program. The findings of the model have been revealed that the good fit values are as follows in the acceptable limits: ( χ 2 /d.f. = 1.31; CFI = 0.99; NFI = 0.99; TLI =0.99; RMSEA = 0.031).

According to the model ( Figure 1 ), the textile sector employees’ digital leadership perceptions have affected idea generation dimension ( β = 0.60, p < 0.001, BC 95% CI [0.514, 0.670]), idea exploration dimension ( β = 0.56, p < 0.001, BC 95% CI [0.462, 0.638]), idea championing dimension ( β = 0.70, p < 0.001, BC 95% CI [0.620, 0.721]), and idea implementation dimension ( β = 0.48, p < 0.001, BC 95% CI [0.357 0.577]) of the innovative work behavior positively and significantly. In other words, as the levels of digital leadership perception increase, the level of perception of the dimensions of innovative work behavior increases. Thus, H1 , H2 , H3 and H4 have been supported ( Table 5 ).

Conclusion and discussion

In this study, we explored how digital leadership perception of the employees influences innovative work behavior. As the results demonstrated, the perception of digital leadership significantly predicted innovative work behavior of the employees. Previous studies focused on the effects of various styles of leaderships on innovative work behavior such as Afsar et al. (2014) and Yidong and Xinxin (2013). However, this study raises link digital workplace, digital leadership and innovative work behavior because innovation is a driving force of organizations, and the literature regarding digitalization of workplace and digital leadership are scarce ( Sarros et al. , 2008 ). Based upon the idea that the innovation starts with creative ideas ( Lace et al. , 2015 ), so leaders who can follow the businesses digitally are open to new changes in the organizations. This study is line with the previous study that digital leadership influenced business model innovation as part of digital transformation ( Mihardjo et al. , 2019 ). From an organizational and individual perspective, Covid-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of digital era once again.

Organizations of the 21st century are fully expected to meet the needs of their stakeholders not only to raise the competitive advantage but also to keep the sustainability being among one of the best and respected for many years. However, unexpected events’ occurrence may be overlooked and may cause various disadvantages for the organizations. Coping with these problems is required for many different parameters. In other words, leaders of the organizations are needed to have different kinds of skills, including real and virtual life management strategies. Meeting all stakeholders’ needs, motivating the employees, following new changes and improvements in the technological world have been considered the priorities of the contemporary leaders of the organizations. Among the leadership styles, digital leadership has developed an entrepreneurial mindset as part of the innovation ( Tanniru et al. , 2018 ). Thus, in addition to the other leadership styles, competence is required to become a fully digitalized leader as for all the organizations innovative aspect provides competitiveness ( Fan, 2006 ).

Based on the results of the hypotheses tested, it can be concluded that digital leadership significantly affects all four dimensions of innovative work behavior. The results of the current study indicate that it is practically important for leaders to understand that to be able to obtain sustainability both for the organization and the employee, following the new technology and perceiving the necessity of innovativeness foster the organization. Employees who perceive their leaders as digitally sufficient have the continuity of the exchange interaction and feel confident towards the organization.


Theoretically, the findings of the study enrich comprehending the relationship between digital leadership and innovative work behavior of the employees. Digital leadership based on Hambrick and Mason’s Upper Echelon Theory (1984), leadership is an important key in organizing the resources to sustain business in the future ( Wasono and Furinto, 2018 ). Digitally skilled leaders stimulate innovative approaches of the employees, which leads to higher motivation and performance. This study sheds light on the importance of research regarding digital leaders’ impact on employees. The implementation of the digital developments which facilitate organizational work outcomes should be encouraged to be used in the organizations by the leaders.

Leaders of the organizations apart from the leadership style have been expected to be more adaptable to the new technology to be able to make the employees adapt the current developments. It can be said that digitally oriented leaders specifically in developing countries such as Turkey need to follow the digitalization, digital developments closely and implement them rapidly to compete and survive in the global competition. COVID-19 pandemic also highlights the global change and innovation in all the industries. Organizations managed by digitally skilled leaders have been adapted to the inevitable changes as a result of the pandemic, unlike the organizations which have the low capacity to perform innovative approaches in both service and product organizations. Just like almost all the countries on earth, Turkey has also been experiencing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thus, the current study conducted in the Turkish organizations has revealed the importance of the organizations with digital leaders have had high innovative work behavior which helps these organizations to experience fewer devastating effects of the pandemic which is now thought and accepted as being one of the competition struggles for the organizations.

Practically, organizations require innovations to meet the changing needs and preferences of the customers/stakeholders as a result of the rapid technological developments. In addition to the vision of the leaders of the organizations, digitally skilled leaders support and motivate the employees and help them show innovation work behaviors. Organizations should pay attention to the digital transformation of the 21st century and develop business models based on innovative approaches.

Research limitations and future research directions

As with any study, this current study has potential limitations. For example, the study can be replicated in different cultural contexts. For the future studies, data can be gathered from further samplings such as health care, tourism and education organizations. Longitudinal studies can be conducted by observing the effects of digitalization in the organizations. For the future studies, more variables such as extra-role behavior, psychological well-being, job satisfaction can be tested in the digital transformation contexts. Our research reveals the positive and significant effect of digital leadership on innovative work behavior, whereas future studies should go further by adding mediating or moderating variables such as emotional intelligence or employee indifference. The current study examined the effect of digital leadership; however, innovative work behavior is just one of the results that employees have been experiencing. For the future studies regarding the digitalization or as a leadership style being a digital leader can be taken into account as a core independent variable and the results which are obtained can provide contribution to the importance of being a competent digital leader. Besides, dependent variables can be gathered by conducting a qualitative study.

thesis digital leadership

Structural model results

Sample characteristics

p < 0.001; B: Unstandardized estimates; β : Standardized estimates; C.R.: Critical ratio

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Digital Management in Covid-19 Pandemic and Post-Pandemic Times pp 117–129 Cite as

The Challenges of Digital Leadership—a Critical Analysis in Times of Disruptive Changes

  • Ines El Akid 3  
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Part of the Springer Proceedings in Business and Economics book series (SPBE)

The following paper deals with the challenges of digital leadership in times of disruptive changes, using the example of the current crisis, the Covid-19 pandemic. The research objective is to examine most important challenges of digital leadership by focusing on changes that have emerged through Covid-19, and to show leaders solutions how they could efficiently overcome the challenging times. The topic of digital leadership is more important and more present nowadays than ever. Companies and employees are experiencing a change in a new way of work. It is not that the trend towards remote work did not exist before, but the pandemic led to major consequences that have accelerated this process. In addition to a literature-based study of the topic, an empirical study was carried out. Seven experts from different industries and backgrounds were asked about the subject in a semi-structured interview. Above all, it stood out leaders especially place value on social skills and self-competences, as for instance: empathy, conflict management, self-reflection, transdisciplinary, openness to innovation and change, resilience and being communicative. Distinctly those competences help them in times of crisis to better respond to the needs and concerns of their employees.

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The examination always focus on leading employees, respectively on the management of virtual teams. The following content does not refer to “corporate management”.

In the present work, the meaning of a traditional team refers to individuals working on-site together.

This chapter in regard to the results only contains the opinions and ideas of the participants. Here original sources are the recordings. As this study was executed as a part of the author’s Master thesis and due to anonymity issues, these files are available exclusive for the examiners and the examination office at Fresenius University in Cologne.

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Appendix: Expert Interview Guideline

In the following the interview guideline is attached.

Do you know the meaning of digital leadership?

Is digital leadership an important topic in your company?

Is digital leadership carried out from the top management (C-Level)? If so, how is this noticeable?

Do you see yourself as a digital leader and do your employees believe that as well?

What do you think are important characteristics of a digital leader? (Characteristics)

Which skills does a person need to lead successfully digital these days? (Core competencies)

Which of the three areas of competences (professional, personal and social competences; see figure below, in the end) are most distinctive? Which ones will help you particularly in disruptive times (times of major changes)?

Do you adapt your “skills” and do you consider this to be necessary in order to develop further in the course of the digital transformation?

What connections do you see between disruptive changes and digital leadership?

Are you satisfied with the way your employer reacts to disruptive changes?

What disruptive changes have occurred in your company (or especially in your team) as a result of the corona pandemic?

On a scale from 1–5: How challenging are/were these changes for you and your team?

figure a

How exactly did the challenges/changes affect you? How did you deal with it?

What special challenges do you see in virtual team management/ leadership?

Have you changed/adapted your management style due to the corona pandemic?

If you have to assess yourself, do you lead your team/ employees in the current times…

figure b

What is decisive for you in order to lead virtual teams effectively?

What do you need as a manager in order to be able to deal better with the topic of digital leadership or to develop yourself further in this area?

Would a uniform concept—integrated in the company—on the subject of digital leadership/virtual team leadership help you to lead your team better? If so, which aspects or contents could such a concept include?

What challenges and requirements do you see for digital managers for the future world of work (referring to ones that may not have been mentioned in the interview yet)?

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El Akid, I. (2023). The Challenges of Digital Leadership—a Critical Analysis in Times of Disruptive Changes. In: Geibel, R.C., Machavariani, S. (eds) Digital Management in Covid-19 Pandemic and Post-Pandemic Times. Springer Proceedings in Business and Economics. Springer, Cham.

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Digital Leadership

Today’s working world is characterized by terms such as New Leadership, New Work, Leadership 4.0 or Agility. But what does this mean concretely?

Even before the corona crisis, digitization was in full swing but lately, the pandemic has ensured that many companies have had to face digital transformation. For many managers and employees, this means an enormous change, and in many cases, a personal challenge. Meanwhile, there are many studies and publications on this topic. They all share one insight: An adequate corporate culture is key to a successful digital transformation. This includes an adapted management style and the early involvement of employees in the change processes. In times of digitization, managers must not only be tech-savvy, but they must also create structures that fit the change. In short: Leadership 4.0 requires digital leadership.

Technological progress does not free us of the responsibility to act as role models in leadership positions. Miriam Meckel, Chief Editor of Wirtschaftswoche

Digital Transformation, VUCA World and New Work

The 21st century has brought about a disruptive change in society, economy, and technologies. In times of this digital revolution, i.e. Industry 4.0, managers find themselves in an environment that is characterized by constant change. Companies need to digitize as the dynamics of the markets are constantly increasing.

The VUCA world

Recent studies often speak of the “VUCA world” in connection with the changed requirements of today’s society. The term is an acronym for the terms volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. But what does that mean specifically?

Digitization and globalization are just two of the major drivers that have shaped today’s working world. They provide dynamic changes that can lead to instability under certain circumstances. This often makes results unpredictable, and understanding the causes becomes increasingly difficult.

The considerations of volatility result in uncertainty in the planning and organization of developments. There is no longer one right way, and therefore, no longer one single leadership strategy.

The employment world is becoming increasingly complex, so managers need more flexibility. Decisions are no longer made by a single person because the more complex a situation, the more factors influence it. Thus, more areas of a company are affected and have to contribute something to the solution.

In communication situations, ambiguities occur more frequently, for example when information is interpreted differently. Ambiguity results from the points mentioned above, as it presupposes that teams have to coordinate more with each other.

The factors of the VUCA world, therefore, put new demands on modern managers, but also on the employees. Within the framework of New Work, however, companies have long since adapted to this.

The changes in the working world, which are also referred to as New Work, can be roughly summarized in four points:

  • Increasingly agile and project-based organizational forms
  • Local and temporal flexibility of work
  • Increasing relevance of value-based and meaningful work
  • Changed management structures and dehierarchization

A working world that is fundamentally changing due to digitization and increasing global networking no longer follows clear rules and offers neither employees nor managers security. Therefore, new team structures and modern leadership are required. What skills should a successful modern manager have? Or to put it another way: What distinguishes a digital leader?

What does digital leadership mean?

Digital leadership has developed into a veritable trend word in recent years. This term is associated with meanings such as leadership and leadership qualities. It is a modern leadership style that is characterized by a fast, agile, cross-hierarchical, and team-oriented way of leading. The terms New Leadership, Leadership 4.0, in the context of the term Industry 4.0, and Digital Leadership are often used synonymously.

Competencies of a Digital Leader

A digital leader is a mixture of a digital expert and a change leader. When making decisions, they should always take into account the following three factors:

  • Employees : A digital leader should actively involve each of their employees in the transformation process, and convince them of a project, so that they can develop their full potential.
  • Company : A digital leader is responsible for new organizational structures that ensure that companies can react quickly and flexibly to changes.
  • Technology : A digital leader knows the latest trends and future-proofs the company against competitors in the digital age. This includes the development of new technologies, for example, to predict customer behavior and to quickly develop a business model.

GRIN recommendation: A concise overview of the topic

Strategic Implications of the Changing Role of Leadership in the Digital Age

Strategic Implications of the Changing Role of Leadership in the Digital Age

The overall objective of this thesis is to investigate the concept of digital leadership by outlining the extent to which it emerges as a unique leadership style in today’s age which is characterized by digital transformation. This shall contribute to closing the research gap around the concept and will be approached by combining the topics of digital transformation and leadership within this research. In order to adequately address the complexity of this research question, three sub-questions shall add to the establishment of a comprehensive answer. Which challenges are leaders facing because of digital transformation? What are the most critical skills leaders need to successfully lead in the digital age? Which type of leadership style is most suitable to successfully lead in the digital age?

Core values of digital leadership

The leadership behavior of a digital leader is specifically geared to the constantly changing, digital reality and is characterized by the characteristics of networking, openness, participation, and agility. These four elements can only be implemented on the basis of trust (+). Together they strengthen the productivity and satisfaction of the employees in the company. This leadership model is called the VOPA+ model .

Define goals correctly with the SMART method

Since employees are given more personal responsibility under the new management style, digital leaders must ensure that they set goals together with their employees. It is not about control, but about orientation for the employees and the company. The end goal is to digitally transform the organization and make it agile. But this does not happen instantly as there are many milestones that have to be achieved.

It is important to formulate smart goals, i.e. concrete and transparent. What distinguishes goals from well-meaning intentions, beautiful wishes, and vague hopes? What makes a goal its goal? Vague phrases like “We need to increase our sales” don’t motivate employees to work towards the goal. To define the goals concretely, the SMART model can help. SMART stands for specific (S), measurable (M), accepted (A), realistic (R), and terminated (T).

A goal formulated according to the SMART method is clear if it meets all five criteria. In the example above regarding the increase in sales, the goal could be formulated as follows: “Gross sales in the product category “Women’s Sneakers” increase by at least 15% in the 2nd quarter of the year compared to the previous year”. To facilitate the process, it is recommended to divide the final goal into intermediate goals. Timed milestones in this strategy provide a better overview and motivation through milestone victories.

Hierarchy is a form of working together. We can flatten hierarchies without removing leadership positions. Felizitas Gräber, Vice President for Strategy & Transformation at Capgemini

GRIN recommendation: Leading like a Scout

Leading like a scout. Suitability of the Scout role as an indicator of leadership competence

Leading like a scout. Suitability of the Scout role as an indicator of leadership competence

In the context of this thesis, it is to be examined whether the role of the Scout is suitable as an indicator for guidance authority. This is considered to be confirmed if it can be shown that Scouting has a significant influence on the development of leadership competence, or rather imparts relevant skills that enable Scouts to lead successfully. Therefore, the primary research question is: “Does Scouting influence personal leadership competence?”

First, leaders have to give a direction which is meaningful and appeals to their employees’ mind and heart. Secondly, they have a role model function and must live and exemplify the values of the institution. Third, they are responsible for creating values. Any person who does not fulfill these responsibilities fails their leadership position. Hans Hinterhuber, Austrian economist and management consultant

GRIN recommendation: To deepen the topic

Remote Leadership in the Covid and Post-Covid Digital Age

Remote Leadership in the Covid and Post-Covid Digital Age

This thesis provides some best practices and other principles to help overcome the challenges and disruption of the Covid-19 pandemic. The author discusses eleven best practices and other principles to help leaders realize potential challenges and how to overcome them. If teams fail to overcome them and adjust to the virtual environment, they will not be able to work effectively and could cause potential damage and losses to the organization by not completing their tasks and goals. These practical implications can help leaders and remote teams adjust to a virtual environment and are why this thesis is very relevant during the Covid-19 pandemic as well as after the pandemic, as these are helpful guidelines for remote leaders.

The Difference Between Digital Leadership and Traditional Leadership

  • Responsibility: temporary and integrative, competencies are networked
  • Decision: binding principles and processes that can be reviewed
  • Result: joint coordination and reflection
  • Information: complete and transparent
  • Objectives and assessment: collective and continuous
  • Mistakes and conflicts: learning progress and support
  • Change: innovation, creativity, and personal responsibility

Traditional Leadership

  • Responsibility: permanent and hierarchy-oriented, clear responsibilities
  • Decision: Position and hierarchy are formative
  • Result: Delegation and control
  • Information: selective, dependent on hierarchies
  • Objective and assessment: Focus on individual performance and personal performance appraisal, periodically
  • Mistakes and conflicts: fixed rules and consequences
  • Change: efficiency, stable quality, and minimal risks

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GRIN sources:

  • Leadership in times of digital transformation
  • How does digital transformation succeed in companies?
  • How digital transformation succeeds in companies
  • Digital Leadership. Requirements for modern managers

External sources:

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The Role of Leadership in a Digitalized World: A Review

Laura cortellazzo.

1 Department of Management, Ca' Foscari University, Venice, Italy

Elena Bruni

2 Department of Business and Management, LUISS Guido Carli University, Rome, Italy

Rita Zampieri

Digital technology has changed organizations in an irreversible way. Like the movable type printing accelerated the evolution of our history, digitalization is shaping organizations, work environment and processes, creating new challenges leaders have to face. Social science scholars have been trying to understand this multifaceted phenomenon, however, findings have accumulated in a fragmented and dispersed fashion across different disciplines, and do not seem to converge within a clear picture. To overcome this shortcoming in the literature and foster clarity and alignment in the academic debate, this paper provides a comprehensive analysis of the contribution of studies on leadership and digitalization, identifying patterns of thought and findings across various social science disciplines, such as management and psychology. It clarifies key definitions and ideas, highlighting the main theories and findings drawn by scholars. Further, it identifies categories that group papers according to the macro level of analysis (e-leadership and organization, digital tools, ethical issues, and social movements), and micro level of analysis (the role of C-level managers, leader's skills in the digital age, practices for leading virtual teams). Main findings show leaders are key actors in the development of a digital culture: they need to create relationships with multiple and scattered stakeholders, and focus on enabling collaborative processes in complex settings, while attending to pressing ethical concerns. With this research, we contribute to advance theoretically the debate about digital transformation and leadership, offering an extensive and systematic review, and identifying key future research opportunities to advance knowledge in this field.


The findings of the latest Eurobarometer survey show the majority of respondents think digitalization has a positive impact on the economy (75 percent), quality of life (67 percent), and society (64 percent) (European Commission, 2017 ). Indeed, people's daily lives and businesses have been highly transformed by digital technologies in the last years. Digitalization allowed to connect more than 8 billion devices worldwide (World Economic Forum, 2018 ), modified information value and management, and started to change the nature of organizations, their boundaries, work processes, and relationships (Davenport and Harris, 2007 ; Lorenz et al., 2015 ; Vidgen et al., 2017 ).

Digital transformation refers to the adoption of a portfolio of technologies that, at varying degrees, have been employed by the majority of firms: Internet (IoT), digital platforms, social media, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), and Big Data (Harvard Business Review Analytic Services, 2017 ). These tools and instruments are “rapidly becoming as infrastructural as electricity” (Cascio and Montealegre, 2016 , p. 350). At macro levels, the shift toward different technologies is setting the agenda for new mechanisms of competition, industry structures, work systems, and relations to emerge. At the micro level, the digitalization has impacted on business dynamics, processes, routines, and skills (Cascio and Montealegre, 2016 ).

Across different sectors and regardless of organization size, companies are converting their workplaces into digital workplaces. As observed by Haddud and McAllen ( 2018 ), many jobs now involve extensive use of technology, and require the ability to exploit it at a fast pace. Yet, digitalization is being perceived both as a global job destroyer and creator, driving a profound transformation of job requirements. In result, leaders need to invest in upskilling employees, in an effort to support and motivate them in the face of steep learning curves and highly cognitively demanding challenges. Moreover, increased connectivity and information sharing is contributing to breaking hierarchies, functions and organizational boundaries, ultimately leading to the morphing of task-based into more project-based activities, wherein employees are required to directly participate in the creation of new added value. As such, the leadership role has become vital to capture the real value of digitalization, notably by managing and retaining talent via better reaching for, connecting and engaging with employees (Harvard Business Review Analytic Services, 2017 ; World Economic Forum, 2018 ). However, leaders need to be held accountable for addressing new ethical concerns arising from the dark side of digital transformation. For instance, regarding the exploitation of digitalization processes to inflict information overload onto employees, or to further blur the lines between one's work and personal life.

In the last few decades, leadership scholars have been trying to monitor the effects of digitalization processes. Part of the academic debate has been focused on the role of leaders' ability to integrate the digital transformation into their companies and, at the same time, inspire employees to embrace the change, which is often perceived as a threat to the current status quo (Gardner et al., 2010 ; Kirkland, 2014 ). To bring clarity to this debate, the construct of e-leader has been introduced to describe a new profile of leaders who constantly interact with technology (Avolio et al., 2000 ; see also Avolio et al., 2014 for a review). Accordingly, e-leadership is defined as a “social influence process mediated by Advanced Information Technology (AIT) to produce a change in attitudes, feelings, thinking, behavior, and/or performance with individuals, groups, and/or organizations” (Avolio et al., 2000 , p. 617).

Despite the increasing interest in discussing the relationship between digital technology and leadership, contributions have accumulated in a fragmented fashion across various disciplines. This fragmentation has made scholars struggle “to detect larger patterns of change resulting from the digital transformation” (Schwarzmüller et al., 2018 , p. 114). It also suggests that scholars have relied on multiple theoretical models to explain the phenomenon. Indeed, if, on one hand, it is clear that organizations are changing due to technological improvements, on the other hand, the way in which the transformation is occurring remains under debate. Furthermore, due to the fast-changing development and implementation of digital technology, there is a need to continuously update and consider the latest contributions to the topic.

This article addresses the aforementioned issues by offering a systematization of the literature on digitalization and leadership that has been accumulating across different disciplines, while adopting an interdisciplinary approach and providing a systematization of articles from different fields that analyze digitalization and leadership. Specifically, the present article reviews the literature on how the advent of digital technologies has changed leaders and leadership roles. Moreover, it structures and summarizes the literature, considering both theoretical frameworks and empirical findings, and fostering the understanding of both the content of the debate and its practical underpinnings. Lastly, reflecting on the findings of this review, we offer suggestions for future directions of research.

The present review draws on the following boundary conditions. First, we relied on a broad definition of leadership, in which the leader is understood as a person who guides a group of people, an organization, or empowers their transformational processes. Second, we excluded studies referring to market or industry leaders, in which the leader is represented by an organization. Third, we considered studies that clearly referred to a digital or technological transformation. Fourth, we did not include studies in which there was not a clear link between information technology and leadership (e.g., city leaders protecting the physical and digital infrastructures of urban economies regarding climate change). Therefore, our review was guided by the following research questions: (i) What are the main theoretical frameworks guiding the academic discussion on digital transformation and leadership? (ii) What are the main categories emerging from the contributions that address the relationship between digital transformation and leadership? And (iii) Which are the main future directions of research that scholars should consider?

This paper is structured as follows: First, it describes the methodology used; Second, it proposes a classification of findings based on theoretical frameworks and content. Finally, it describes implications of our findings for both research and practice, and proposes directions for future research.

Research Design

The aim of this paper is to investigate how the debate on digital transformation and leadership has evolved in recent years, to identify key theories and findings, and to propose potential future directions of research. To answer our research questions, we use a mixed method approach, that involves both quantitative research through standard databases and qualitative coding (Crossan and Apaydin, 2010 ; Peteraf et al., 2013 ; Zupic and Čater, 2015 ).

Data Collection

We collected papers from the Scopus database, one of the most widely used sources of scientific literature (Zupic and Čater, 2015 ). We also checked Web of Science and Ebsco databases in order to avoid missing articles. Because we did not find any relevant distinction between these databases regarding this topic, we chose to use Scopus only. We firstly accessed the database on September 1st, 2018.

Since our research questions concerned the academic discussion on digital transformation and leadership, the scope of our search was limited to academic articles (not only from peer-reviewed journals but also from unpublished sources, such as unpublished manuscripts). Non-academic books and other publications were outside the scope of our study and were therefore excluded from our search. Our initial search was undertaken using the basic keywords: leader * AND digital * OR e-leader * . The keywords were used as a selection criterion for the topic (title, keywords, or abstract). We searched peer-reviewed papers published in English, in journals focusing on the following subject areas: Business, Management, and Accounting; Psychology; and Social Science, without any additional selection restrictions. We decided to scan articles published in other areas than Business and Management since the topic is covered by several disciplines. These criteria resulted in an initial sample of 790 articles. The following figure ( Figure 1 ) shows how the debate grew since 2000, and significantly expanded since 2015.

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Growth of articles on leadership and digitalization.

In order to avoid a potential publication bias (O'Boyle et al., 2017 ), and to scan recent studies that might not have had the time to go through the entire publication process, we performed a search within conference proceedings since 2015, using the same aforementioned criteria. The initial sample comprised 113 articles.

The second step within our data collection process involved a qualitative selection of articles. We first considered publications with at least one citation among those published before 2013, seen that the number of citations is a common criterion of scientific rigor and impact in academia (Garfield, 1979 , 2004 ; Peteraf et al., 2013 ). As citation-based methods may discriminate against recent publications (Crossan and Apaydin, 2010 ), we kept all papers published after 2013. Based on the assumption that top journals publish high quality papers, we discarded studies that were not included within the first 200 journals appearing in the Scimago list within the Management and Business, Social Science, and Psychology areas. Then, both peer-reviewed articles and conference proceedings were filtered based on the assessment of whether the abstracts were in alignment with the topic and the boundary conditions. Articles were selected based on the following criteria: (i) the leader was a person who guides a group, organization, or empowers their transformational processes; (ii) there was a clear reference to digital or technological transformation; (iii) there was a clear link between information technology and leadership. Articles that focused on either digital transformation or leadership only were excluded, as well as papers that were outside our boundary conditions, such as studies on industry leaders using digital platforms. Figure 2 summarizes the selection criteria and the boundary conditions used to scan the articles. The search criteria resulted in a final dataset of 54 studies.

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Search strategy and selection criteria.

Data Analysis and Qualitative Coding

To attain a “systematic, transparent and reproducible review process” (Zupic and Čater, 2015 , p. 429), and identify research streams and seminal works, we first performed a bibliometric analysis of the initial dataset of 790 articles. In order to map the origin and evolution of the academic debate on digital transformation and leadership, a systematic coding analysis was conducted on the entire set of articles. Then, the iterative reading and discussion of the final dataset of articles highlighted the following emerging categories that guided our analysis (Strauss and Corbin, 1998 ): (i) theoretical or empirical papers; (ii) research methodology; (iii) level of analysis (micro and macro); (iv) definition of leadership and digitalization; (v) main themes or objectives of the article; (v) main underlying theories; (vi) field of study (e.g., Management and Planning, Economics and Business, Psychology and so forth). Based on this coding scheme, the three authors independently read and coded all articles. Subsequently, they discussed their coding attribution until an agreement on the final coding of each article was reached.

Dataset Description

The final database comprises 54 articles, of which 42 are peer-reviewed papers published by 33 journals, while the remaining 12 papers are conference proceedings (see Table 1 ).

Dataset citations, source, level of analysis and empirical/theoretical approach.

Regarding the peer reviewed articles in our dataset, most of them stem from Economic, Business and Management (22 articles), and Information and Communication Sciences (10 articles). Only three studies come from the Psychology discipline. As for the sources wherein these articles are published, we count two journals that specifically address the leadership field, such as “The Leadership Quarterly” and “Strategy and Leadership”, whereas the remaining 31 other journals are spread across areas such as Economics, Business and Management, Information and Communication Sciences, Psychology, Educational, Heath and Political Sciences. The novelty of the topic and the breadth of journals in which it is published confirms that the field of digital transformation and leadership has garnered interest from several difference disciplines. Such fragmentation of the literature and the different perspectives it has enabled, justifies the need for systematization and alignment of future research.

As for the conference proceedings, half of the articles come from international and peer-reviewed conferences advancing the debate of digital transformation in business, such as the International Conference on Electronic Business, the Scandinavian Conference on Information Systems, the IEEE Conference on e-Learning, e-Management and e-Services.

Among the top five most cited articles in our sample, three come from journals that specifically relate to Human Resources: “Leadership Quarterly” and “Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes.” In these articles the authors focus on the characteristics of digital leaders in terms of roles and behaviors, stressing the idea that technology is deeply changing the way in which leaders conceive communication and cope with their followers (Avolio et al., 2000 , 2014 ; Horner-Long and Schoenberg, 2002 ; Hambley et al., 2007 ).

As shown in Figure 1 , the early 2000s witnessed an initial interest in the topic, when pioneering work began to consider the changes that digitalization brings in the area of leadership and how the concept and practice of leadership are affected by new technologies (Avolio et al., 2000 ; Coutu, 2000 ). However, it has been mostly over the last decade that the topic garnered seesawing attention. It is plausible to assert that the much stronger impact that technological development has had within organizations recently, and the expectation that technological evolution will be even more disruptive in the near future, has accelerated the interest on the topic. Indeed, while all peer-reviewed articles in our sample are from 2000 on, 60 percent were published after 2014. As for conference proceedings, we only considered the contributions presented after 2015 in order to understand how the debate has been developing in recent years.

Regarding the level of analysis (micro vs. macro), the majority of contributions within our sample are at the micro-level (30 articles), while 24 adopt a macro perspective. Within the latter, it is interesting to notice that a considerable number of articles do not pertain to the management field. As to the type of contribution, the majority of articles in our sample (37) are empirical studies, while only a few articles are conceptual. This imbalance reveals there is still a lack of theorization about the impact of technology on leadership. Nevertheless, in the next session we systematize the main theoretical frameworks that have been used to address this topic.

Main Theoretical Frameworks

The analysis of the theoretical content of our dataset highlighted that only a small set of studies explicitly refers to the extant theoretical frameworks describing the impact of digital transformation on leadership. Advanced information technologies theory (Huber, 1990 ), according to which the adoption of information technologies influences changes in organization structure, information use, and decision-making processes, is used as common ground. Scholars agree on the high impact of technology in leadership behavior and identify Information Technologies (IT) developments as a driver for creating disruptive changes in businesses and in leadership roles across different organizational functions (Bartol and Liu, 2002 ; Geoffrion, 2002 ; Weiner et al., 2015 ; Sousa and Rocha, 2018 ). These changes are so dramatic that scholars started to adopt a new terminology to characterize the e-world, e-business and e-organizations (Horner-Long and Schoenberg, 2002 ). Recent studies have been discussing the notion of digital ubiquity (Gerth and Peppard, 2016 ; Schwarzmüller et al., 2018 ), describing the pervasive proliferation of technology (Roman et al., 2018 ). With this term, scholars refer to a context in which technological equipment is prevalent and constantly interacts with humans. It describes a scenario in which “computer sensors (such as radio frequency identification tags, wearable technology, smart watches) and other equipment (tablets, mobile devices) are unified with various objects, people, information, and computers as well as the physical environment” (Cascio and Montealegre, 2016 , p. 350).

In terms of leadership theoretical frameworks, scholars seem to turn to a plethora of different theories and definitions. Horner-Long and Schoenberg ( 2002 ) contrapose two main theoretical approaches: universal theories and contingency theories. The former supports the view that leaders differ from other individuals due to a generic set of leadership traits and behaviors which can be applied to all organizations and business environments (see for example Lord et al., 1986 ; Kirkpatrick and Locke, 1991 ). The latter argues that, in order to be effective, leadership should adopt a style and behaviors that match the context (e.g., Tannenbaum and Schmidt, 1973 ; Goleman, 2000 ). The authors empirically explore leadership profile characteristics, comparing e-business leaders and leaders from traditional bricks and mortar organizations. Results do not clearly support any of the two approaches. They suggest that in both contexts most of leadership characteristics are equally valued. However, certain characteristics distinguish e-world leaders from leaders in traditional industries. While Horner-Long and Schoenberg ( 2002 ) analyze leader profile differences across industries, Richardson and Sterrett ( 2018 ) adopt a longitudinal design, exploring how digital innovations influenced the role of technology-savvy K-12 district leaders across time. They base their work on a unified model of effective leadership practices that influence learning (Hitt and Tucker, 2016 ). Although the leadership practice model is maintained across time, the authors recognize some shifts in the way those practices are implemented.

Only Obschonka et al. ( 2017 ) specifically adopt a universal perspective, drawing from trait approach theory (Stogdill, 1974 ). By analyzing the language used to communicate via Twitter, the authors identify the personality characteristics that distinguish the most successful managers and entrepreneurs.

Heinz et al. ( 2006 ) follow a contingency approach, emphasizing the need to take into account the context and consider situational aspects that can influence leadership and cooperation practices.

Most studies in our sample assume that the change in context due to technological advancement may influence leadership. According to Lu et al. ( 2014 , p. 55), it cannot be assumed that “leadership skills identified in offline context should be transferred to virtual leadership without any adjustment.”

However, some authors make this assumption tacitly (e.g., Schwarzmüller et al., 2018 ), without explicitly addressing any related theoretical framework. Bolden and O'Regan ( 2016 , p. 439) report that “there is no one approach to leadership,” since leadership is context specific and must to be adapted to the needs of the day. Similarly, Lu et al. ( 2014 ) maintain that effective leadership behaviors are determined by the situation in which leadership is developed.

To address the diversity of situations and contexts, Jawadi et al. ( 2013 ) overcome the limits of a pure contingency approach and embrace complexity, adopting the framework of leadership behavioral complexity theory (Denison et al., 1995 ). In a context characterized by complex and unanticipated demands, a leader needs to develop a behavioral repertoire that allows dealing with contradictory and paradoxical situations (Denison et al., 1995 ). As contingencies are evolving so rapidly as to be considered in a state of flux, an effective leader needs to be able to conceive and perform multiple behaviors and roles.

Avolio et al. ( 2000 , 2014 ), make a step forward in defining the role of context.

Similarly to Bartol and Liu ( 2002 ), the authors adopt a structurational perspective (Adaptive Structure Theory) (AST; DeSanctis and Poole, 1994 ) as the main theoretical framework. According to their point of view, digital technologies and leadership reciprocally influence and change each other in a recursive relationship. In their perspective, not only technology influences leadership, but also leaders appropriate technology, and it is through the interaction between information technology and organizational structures that the effect of technology on individuals, groups, and organizations emerges. In this view, the context is not only shaping and shaped by leaders; it is part and parcel of the construct of e-leadership itself. Avolio et al. ( 2000 , 2014 ) remarkably paved the way for the conceptualization of e-leadership, which has since been adopted by many other authors to inform their studies (Avolio et al., 2000 ; Lynn Pulley and Sessa, 2001 ; Roman et al., 2018 ).

Similarly, Orlikowski ( 1992 ) develop a Structurational Model of Technology, whereby technology influences the context in which actors perform but is also designed and socially constructed by its users (Van Outvorst et al., 2017 ).

Looking at leaders' relationships with their teams, scholars refer to the following main theories: transactional leadership theory, transformational leadership theory (Burns, 1978 ; Bass, 1981 , 1985 ), and leader-member exchange theory (LMX; Graen and Scandura, 1987 ). Transactional and transformational leadership are among the most influential and discussed behavioral leadership theories of the last decade (Diaz-Saenz, 2011 ). They distinguish transformational leaders, who focus on motivating and inspiring followers to perform above expectations, from transactional leaders, who perceive the relationship with followers as an exchange process, in which follower compliance is gained through contingent reinforcement and rewards (Bass, 1985 ). Previous studies reveal that leadership styles may influence virtual team interactions and performance (e.g., Sosik et al., 1997 ; Sosik et al., 1998 ; Kahai and Avolio, 2006 ). As such, Hambley et al. ( 2007 ) explore the effects of transactional and transformational leadership on team interactions and outcomes, comparing teams interactions across different communication media: face-to-face, desktop videoconference, or text-based chat. Likewise, Lu et al. ( 2014 ) compare virtual and offline interactions, drawing on transactional and transformational leadership theories to understand whether leadership styles of individuals playing in Massive Multiplayer Online Games (MMOGs) can be associated to their leadership status in offline contexts. However, this association is found to be significant only with offline leadership roles in voluntary organizations, not in companies. Results in Hambley et al. ( 2007 ) also show that the association between leadership style and team interaction and performance does not depend on the communication medium being used.

While transactional and transformational leadership theories adopt a behavioral perspective in which the focal point is the leader behavior with regards to the follower, leader-member exchange theory (LMX) introduces a dyadic point of view. Leader-member exchange theory focuses on the nature and quality of the relationship between leaders and their team members. The quality of this relationship, which is characterized by trust, respect, and mutual obligation, is thought to predict individual, group and organizational outcomes (Gerstner and Day, 1997 ). Jawadi et al. ( 2013 ) use the concept of leader-member exchange as a dependent variable, exploring how multiple leadership roles influence cooperative and collaborative relationships in virtual teams. Bartol and Liu ( 2002 ) build on leader-member exchange theory to suggest policies and practices HRM professionals can use to implement IT-information sharing and positively influence employee perceptions.

The democratization of informational power gave momentum to distributed power dynamics. Moving beyond the centrality of the sole vertical leader, the shared leadership approach emphasizes the role of teams as potential source of leadership (Pearce, 2004 ; Ensley et al., 2006 ; Pearce et al., 2009 ). Shared leadership is “a manifestation of fully developed empowerment in teams” (Pearce, 2004 , p. 48) in which leadership behaviors that “guide, structure, or facilitate the group may be performed by more than one individual, and different individuals may perform the same leadership behaviors at different times” (Carte et al., 2006 : p. 325).

Acknowledging the relevance of increased connectivity in the digital era, some studies underscore the importance to take into account a network perspective. Lynn Pulley and Sessa ( 2001 ) contrapose the industrial economy to the current networked economy. Bartol and Liu ( 2002 ) define networked organizations as those organizations characterized by three major types of connectivity: inter-organizational (also known as boundaryless; Nohria and Berkley, 1994 ), intra-organizational, and extra-organizational. Kodama ( 2007 ) views the organization as the integration of different types of networked strategic communities, wherein knowledge is shared and assessed. Sullivan et al. ( 2015 ) use a network representation to depict shared leadership. Gordon ( 2007 ) explores how the network is embedded in the concept of web that is currently accepted.

The Macro Perspective of Analysis: Main Categories

The studies on digitalization and leadership that adopt a macro-perspective of analysis can be classified in four different categories, according to whether they focus on: (1) The relationship between e-leaders and organizations; (2) How leaders adopt technology to solve complex organizational problems; (3) The impact of digital technologies on ethical leadership; or (4) The leader's use of digital technologies to influence social movements.

The Relationship Between E-Leaders and Organizations

The studies within our sample that take a macro or organizational-level approach are considerably less than those which investigate the micro dynamics occurring within organizations. A summary is shown in Table 2 . This imbalance is probably due to the relatively greater urgency and challenge to understand the role of leaders and leadership in guiding and implementing the digitalization process within organizations, rather than what new forms of organizations are emerging as a result of the digital transformation. As observed by a recent Harvard Business Review Analytic Services report ( 2017 ), leaders have increasingly become the key players in driving positive results from the investments on digital tools and technologies.

Main categories summary.

In the last few years, scholars have begun to adopt the construct of e-leader in order to specifically refer to those leaders who have initiated a massive process of digitalization in their organizations. Despite the call to understand how organizations and e-leaders are intertwined, few studies provide an empirical explanation of the new organizational configurations emerging from the interaction between technology and the human/social system. Berman and Korsten ( 2014 ) is one among the few. By surveying a large sample of CEOs, running companies of different sizes and across 64 countries and 18 industries, the authors showed that outperforming organizations had leaders that created open, connected and highly collaborative organizational cultures. The authors suggest future leaders should base their organizations on three pillars: (1) Assuring a highly connected and open working environment at any hierarchical levels and units in organizations; (2) Engaging customers by gathering knowledge about the whole person; and (3) Establishing more integrated and networked relationships with partners and competitors (Berman and Korsten, 2014 ). They posit these three pillars transform the organizations at all levels. This implies organizations are becoming boundaryless, at both the internal and external levels. Further, the organizational structure is no longer a static feature, but an ongoing process (Van Outvorst et al., 2017 ). While a shift toward an ecological perspective— one where organizations' boundaries are loose and permeable—requires higher coordination, collaboration and individual responsibility, it also enhances innovative capabilities (Lynn Pulley and Sessa, 2001 ). According to Kodama ( 2007 ), managers at any level can foster innovation if they go beyond the formal organization, to create real or virtual networks among internal and/or external communities of practice. These communities of practice enable a more agile response to change, promoting the free-flow of information and breaking down information silos (Petrucci and Rivera, 2018 ), thereby empowering both managers and employees to integrate, transform and stimulate knowledge that fosters innovation. This way, information and communication technology enables the creation of shared information pools wherein diverse staff across the organization contribute to a collaborative and dynamic process of idea generation. Moreover, such co-generation of ideas and knowledge cultivates stronger relationships between disparate organizational units, further facilitating open innovation processes (Henttonen et al., 2012 ).

In sum, by breaking the organizational boundaries within and between internal and external stakeholders, the traditional leader-centered information and decision-making process is giving way to novel processes that democratize access to information and share decision power among all parties involved.

Digital Tools and Organizations: How Technology Enhances the Optimization of Complex Organizational Environments

Although most papers adopting a macro perspective reflect on the novel structures of organizations, they tend to underestimate the effect of digital transformation on organizational processes. That is, however, not the case with Weiner et al. ( 2015 ), who discuss how the effective achievement of operational goals relies on the fit between strategic planning and information technology, particularly in operationally complex organizations, such as hospitals. Their empirical study shows that digital tools could highly contribute in the planning and monitoring of internal processes, increasing the transparency and accountability across all levels of management, and engaging customers' trust. For instance, the intelligent use of data through sophisticated digital tools, allowed hospitals administrators to lead improvements in decision-making processes and service quality by enhancing the usage of traditional management tools, such as key performance indicators (KPIs), and storage of critical data, namely on infections and diseases. Notably, this study offers empirical evidence on the need to adopt digital technology to develop efficient internal organizational processes and guarantee high quality service to customers. In another empirical study conducted in a hospital, the authors confirmed that the use of digital tools helped leaders solve complex issues related to personnel and operational costs. Similarly to the previous study aforementioned, data were used to re-design the entire organization with the aim of optimizing the efficiency in the use of both facilities and processes (Morgareidge et al., 2014 ).

Leaders are responsible for verifying the suitability of technological tools being adopted or implemented in relation to the organizational needs and objectives. Moreover, while we acknowledge that digital technologies hold the potential for improving the efficiency of organizational processes, we contend that they need to be internalized and integrated within employees' routine tasks in order for organizations to minimize attritions from their adoption and fully capture its benefits.

Organizations and Ethics

Ethics in leadership roles has been an issue of concern to scholars especially since the emergence of the transformational leadership paradigm (Burns, 1978 ; Bass and Avolio, 1993 ). In general, ethical leadership is defined as “the demonstration of normatively appropriate conduct through personal actions and interpersonal relationships, and the promotion of such conduct to followers through two-way communication, reinforcement, and decision-making” (Brown et al., 2005 , p. 120). With the advent of digital transformation and the massive use of data, scholars have begun to call into question the integrity of leaders. Indeed, the use of data and technologies exposes leaders to new dilemmas, which nature is intertwined with ethical concerns. For instance, the use of sensitive data is driving leaders' increased concerns about privacy protection and controlling mechanisms in the workplace (Kidwell and Sprague, 2009 ). Electronic surveillance (ES) is a way to collect data about employees and their behavior, so as to improve productivity and monitor behaviors in the workplace (Kidwell and Sprague, 2009 ). ES rules vary across countries and cultures. For instance, the US Supreme Court of Justice obliged employers to adopt ES to monitor employees in order to prevent sexual harassment (Kidwell and Sprague, 2009 ). Notwithstanding, Europe has been more concerned with individual privacy. Notably, in 1986, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) approved a declaration on social aspects of technological change, whereby member states “were concerned that employers and unions ensure that workers' privacy be protected when technological change occurs” (Kidwell and Sprague, 2009 , p. 199). Perhaps the boldest manifestation of this concern is the recently adopted EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which has just come into force the past May 25th, 2019.

In this scenario, leaders are required to set clear guidelines and practices that lie within national and international data security policies. In particular, they need to monitor the use of personal sensitive data, if not for the ethical concern per se , because if otherwise caught in unlawful data practices, their organizations' reputation, trustworthiness, and brand image could suffer irreparable damage (e.g., the recent scandal of Cambridge Analytica about an inappropriate use of personal data, has affected the reputation of all organizations involved) (Gheni et al., 2016 ; Jones, 2017 ). Leaders also need to set clear expectations for employees and act as role models for all members of the organization in order to clarify what ethical behavior regarding personal sensitive data looks like. This is especially true for organizations that strongly rely on virtual communications, as these tend to stimulate more aggressive and unethical behavior, due to their lack of face-to-face interactions (Gheni et al., 2016 ). Leaders, therefore, have a pivotal role in weeding out potential unethical behaviors from their organizations.

Finally, an emerging topic in leadership concerns the unlawful appropriation of technology from private and public organizations. Specifically, it refers to situations wherein technology is used for purposes other than those it had originally been intended (Jones, 2017 ). For instance, improper use of technology may result in unauthorized access to data and lead to cyber security breaches (Jones, 2017 ).

Despite the interdisciplinary relevance of ethics, the debate of ethical concerns within e-leadership seems to be currently confined to the literature on governance and information technology. Yet, there is room for more theoretical and empirical discussion about how ethics is affecting power relations, surveillance, safety perceptions in the workplace, and human resource processes.

Leadership and Digital Tools: Insights From Social Movement Studies

A complementary perspective of leadership and digitalization is provided by several recent studies that analyze social and political events, in particular grassroots movements such as the Occupy and Tea Party (Agarwal et al., 2014 ), the Umbrella Movement in China (Lee and Man Chan, 2016 ) and the political tensions in Russia (Toepfl, 2018 ). These contributions share the notion of leader as someone who directs collective action and creates collective identities (Morris and Staggenborg, 2004 ). These studies, mainly rooted in communication and political sciences, are certainly relevant to our review as they shed light on the social nature of leadership in the new digital era.

These studies focus on how social media and digital tools are disrupting traditional forms of leadership, altering the structure, norms and hierarchy of organizations, and creating new practices to manage and sustain consensus (David and Baden, 2018 ). New forms of leadership are for instance defined as horizontal and leaderless (Castells, 2012 ; Bennett and Segerberg, 2013 ). The horizontality defines movements and groups in which authority is dismissed, whereas leaderless points to the lack of power stratification among the participants (Sitrin, 2006 ; Gerbaudo, 2017 ).

In a similar vein, recent studies looking at the use of digital tools by participants in social movements, observe how power struggles were changed by new information and communication technologies (ICTs): “ICTs have transformed the power dynamics of social movement politics by challenging traditional forms of [social] organizations” (Agarwal et al., 2014 , p. 327).

The single case study of the ultra-orthodox community illustrates for instance how authoritarian leadership can be broken down by digital tools and social media (David and Baden, 2018 ). When the leadership of a closed and conservative religious community is questioned in social media, that creates a new space to renegotiate the community's boundaries and modify its power dynamics: “the fluidity and temporality of digital media have advanced to become an influential, independent factor shaping community opinion” (David and Baden, 2018 , p. 14). As such, the identity of a closed and inaccessible community and its leadership are challenged by both internal and external actors through the use of digital media.

The study of different digital tools is also considered a relevant subject matter to gain understanding about what tools are more efficient in organizing and mobilizing resources (Agarwal et al., 2014 ). Technology and digital tools are not value-neutral nor value free, because they influence how people organize, coordinate, and communicate with others (Hughes, 2004 ; Agarwal et al., 2014 ). For instance, the study on the Russian activists shows how the long-term success of the movement was a result of a centralized, formalized and stable network, wherein its leading representatives and other members were bonded together by a new digital tool (Toepfl, 2018 ). The use of digital instruments enabled the transformation of an organization that was initially chaotic into a more structured one, as they facilitated the discussion and coordination between the leader and its followers (Toepfl, 2018 ). This resulted in a more efficient and effective way to achieve consensus.

Taken together, these studies show how technology is far from being a neutral instrument. Rather, digital tools influence power dynamics in any type of organization (e.g., flat, bureaucratic or networked), and at any level. If on one hand, digital tools can lead to the de-structuring of extant hierarchies and challenge organizational boundaries and rules, on the other hand, they can be used as communication and coordination mechanisms that allow leaders to build structured networks from scratch and, through them, reinforce their power.

In sum, these studies stress that, despite the participatory dynamics that characterize social movements, power struggles and hierarchies are still the underlying forces that bond heterogenous groups of people together. Leaders are then the key actors in identifying objectives, orienting followers, and providing a clear identity to organizations, by means of a shared vision (Gerbaudo, 2017 ; Bakardjieva et al., 2018 ).

The Micro Level of Analysis: Main Categories

The studies that adopt a micro-perspective to the topic of leadership and digital technology can be classified in three different categories, depending on whether they focus on: (1) The increased complexity of C-level roles; (2) The skills e-leaders need; and (3) The practices for leading virtual teams effectively.

The Evolution of C-Level Roles

The huge impact that digitalization has had in the competitive business environment, transforming markets, players, distribution channels, and relationships with customers, has made it necessary for organizations to adopt a high-level strategic view on digital transformation. New responsibilities on the selection of digital technologies that will drive an organization's ability to remain competitive in a highly digitized world, are given mainly to its CEO (Gerth and Peppard, 2016 ). CEOs in the Digital Age assume the additional role of digital change agents and digital enablers, implying that they should recognize the opportunities offered by new technologies, and also push for their implementation. As suggested by Avolio et al. ( 2000 ), e-leaders have a fundamental role in appropriating the right technology that is suitable to their organizations' needs, but also in transmitting a positive attitude to employees about their adopting of new technology. CEOs are required to instill a digital culture into the top management team, involving it in actively sustain a digital change inside the organization (Gerth and Peppard, 2016 ). For this matter, a greater interaction is needed between the CEO and the Chief Information Officer (CIO), who will increasingly become a key player in the digital strategy definition and implementation, rather stay confined to an “IT-is-a-mess-now-fix-it” flavor of a role (Gerth and Peppard, 2016 ; Bekkhus and Hallikainen, 2017 ). Bekkhus and Hallikainen ( 2017 ) acknowledge an increased ambidexterity in the role of CIOs and develop a toolbox related to their role as gatekeepers and contributors. In order to reach their goals successfully, CIOs need to have a clear picture of both the characteristics of the digital strategy and the organizational needs it is supposed to satisfy. They should also carefully evaluate the readiness of the organization in every step of the changing process in order to adopt the proper pace. To avoid IT project failures, CEOs need to facilitate the recognition of the CIO's role, as well as promote collaboration between the CIO and other top managers (Bygstad et al., 2017 ).

As described before, digital technologies are not only used to support internal processes, but are also a way to build relationships with different actors in the external environment. Social media platforms in particular, are de facto powerful tools that C-level executives use to build communications channels with their followers (Obschonka et al., 2017 ). In a study analyzing the rhetoric of CEOs in social media, Grafström and Falkman ( 2017 ) suggest that CEOs' willingness and ability to construct a continuative dialogue through digital channels is a powerful way not only to manage organizational crisis but also to sustain the reputation and the image of the organization, positioning the brand and communicating the organizational values. Thus, as Tsai and Men ( 2017 ) unveil, by properly using social media, CEOs, as organizational leaders and spokespersons, can build trust, satisfaction and advocacy among their followers. According to the authors, digital technologies, and social media in particular, support CEOs in becoming “Chief Engagement Officers [who develop] meaningful interpersonal interactions and relationships with today's media savvy publics” (Tsai and Men, 2017 , p. 1859). Even if CEOs have always been considered the personification of the organization, the rising need for transparency and authenticity has led CEOs to embrace the task of visible, approachable and social leaders who actively contribute to the engagement of followers and costumers (Tsai and Men, 2017 ).

In sum, C-level managers are faced with higher complexity of roles, related not only to new responsibilities in the digital strategy development, but also in the engagement of stakeholders across the organization's boundaries.

Leaders' Skills in the Digital Era

Defining what skills characterize leaders in the digital era has become a matter of interest in the literature. Studies analyze what are the relevant skills e-leaders should display in order to be effective. In line with the debate on universal and contingency theories, scholars ask to what extent the skills leaders need in order to lead e-businesses differ from the ones needed in traditional organizations (Horner-Long and Schoenberg, 2002 ). Most studies are based on expert surveys that engage with digital experts, managers, CEOs and Managing Directors of e-businesses (Lynn Pulley and Sessa, 2001 ; Horner-Long and Schoenberg, 2002 ; Schwarzmüller et al., 2018 ; Sousa and Rocha, 2018 ). A few studies also integrate expert surveys with interviews to IT specialists (Sousa and Rocha, 2018 ) and C-level managers (Horner-Long and Schoenberg, 2002 ).

Scholars agree that the introduction of digital tools affects the design of work, and, particularly, how people work together (Barley, 2015 ; Schwarzmüller et al., 2018 ). For example, digitalization opens up new possibilities such as virtual teams and smart working, introduces new communication tools, increases speed and information access, influences power structures, and increases efficiency and standardization. In order to steer organizations and help them reap the benefits from such digital transformations, leaders may need to develop a variety of different skills. We present below the main skills leaders need in the digital transformation era that have been highlighted in the literature.

Communicating through digital media

Global connectivity and fast exchange of information have created a much more competitive and turbulent environment for e-businesses, which must deal with rapid and discontinuous changes in demand, competition and technology (Horner-Long and Schoenberg, 2002 ). Scholars agree that the need for speed, flexibility, and easier access to information has facilitated the adoption of flatter and more decentralized organizational structures (Horner-Long and Schoenberg, 2002 ). In the digital context, knowledge and information become more visible and easier to share, allowing followers to gain more autonomy (Schwarzmüller et al., 2018 ) and to make their voices heard at all levels of the organization (Lynn Pulley and Sessa, 2001 ). As information becomes more distributed within the organization, power tends to be decentralized. Digital transformation allows real-time involvement of followers in many decision processes, increasing their participation. Therefore, leaders are expected to adopt a more inclusive style of leading (Schwarzmüller et al., 2018 ), asking for and taking into account followers' ideas into everyday decision making, using a two-way communication and interaction. Scholars maintain that followers' higher autonomy and participation can lead to a higher sense of responsibility for the work they are accountable for. This in turn should reduce the need for control-seeking behaviors previously exerted by leaders (Horner-Long and Schoenberg, 2002 ; Schwarzmüller et al., 2018 ).

At the same time, inspiring and motivating employees have become pivotal skills for leaders to master (Horner-Long and Schoenberg, 2002 ), and seem to be required to an even greater extent in order to encourage the continuous involvement and active participation of followers. Indeed, the same digital tools that provide autonomy to followers, may also drive them toward greater isolation (Lynn Pulley and Sessa, 2001 ). According to Van Wart et al. ( 2017 ) and Roman et al. ( 2018 ), some of the most common problems generated by the digitalization of organizations are worker alienation, weak social bonding, and poor accountability. It is therefore extremely important that leaders support and help followers in dealing with the challenges of greater autonomy and increased job demands, by adopting coaching behaviors that promote their development, provide resources, and assist them in handling tasks (Schwarzmüller et al., 2018 ).

Similarly, the ability to create a positive organizational environment that fosters a strong sense of collaboration and unity among employees has become vital for leaders to have. Yet, e-leaders' reliance on traditional social skills, such as the abilities of active listening and understanding others' emotions and points of view, may not be enough to warrant success in creating such environments. Rather, they need to integrate these social skills with the ability to master a variety of virtual communication methods (Roman et al., 2018 ). According to Carte et al. ( 2006 , p. 326), “while leadership in the more traditional face-to-face context may emerge using a variety of mechanisms, in the virtual context it likely relies largely on the communication effectiveness of the leader.”

Roman et al. ( 2018 , p. 5) label this skill as e-communication, and define it as “the ability to communicate via ICTs in a manner that is clear and organized, avoids errors and miscommunication, and is not excessive or detrimental to performance.” The leader needs to set the appropriate tone for the communication, while organizing it and providing clear messages. Moreover, the leader needs to master different communication tools, as their communication effectiveness depends largely on the ability to choose the right communication tool. Roman et al. ( 2018 ) provide a set of major selection criteria, which includes richness of the tool, synchronicity, speed of feedback, ease of understanding by non-experts, and reprocessing capability (ability to use the communication artifact multiple times in different venues). This ability allows to adapt the communication to the receiver preferences (as it would otherwise happen in a face-to-face interaction), so as to provide a variety of cues that enhance social bonding (Shachaf and Hara, 2007 ; Stephens and Rains, 2011 ), convey the right message to the target audience, and better manage urgency and complexity.

High speed decision making

One way in which the introduction of technology has changed the organizational life has been the greater need for speed. Scholars agree that e-business leaders are forced to make decisions more rapidly (Lynn Pulley and Sessa, 2001 ; Horner-Long and Schoenberg, 2002 ). This seems to suggest that decisiveness, and problem-solving abilities keep being extremely relevant for e-leaders, and may become even more prominent in the future (Horner-Long and Schoenberg, 2002 ). According to Lynn Pulley and Sessa ( 2001 ), never-ending urgency can create situations in which leaders needs to make decisions without having all information or without having time to think and analyze the problem properly, which may lead to falling back onto habitual responses, instead of creating novel and innovative ideas. To help navigate such situations, leaders need to be able to tolerate ambiguity, while being creative at the same time (Horner-Long and Schoenberg, 2002 ; Schwarzmüller et al., 2018 ). If it is true that the digital world forces leaders to examine problems and provide innovative answers at a faster peace, the use of information technology also allows them to make more informed decisions. Information systems can provide enormous amounts of real-time data. For this reason, the ability to process high volumes of fast-paced incoming and outgoing data (e.g., Big data), in order to analyze it, prioritize and make sense of the relevant information for decision-making, has become and will be even more relevant in the future. Recent research points out that leaders will increasingly need to collaborate with IT managers, providing directions for data analysis and offering meaningful interpretations of results (Harris and Mehrotra, 2014 ; Vidgen et al., 2017 ).

Managing disruptive change

The fast-paced technological evolution places high demands on organizations' ability to deal with continuously changing conditions and players. Lynn Pulley and Sessa ( 2001 ) highlight the constant need for organizations to adapt, foresee opportunities, and sometimes improvise, in order to maintain their competitiveness in the market. Under increasing pressure to innovate, leaders need to undertake an active role in identifying the need for change, as well as handling, and initiating change within their teams and organizations (Schwarzmüller et al., 2018 ). Horner-Long and Schoenberg ( 2002 ) findings confirm that e-leaders tend to show more entrepreneurial and risk-taking characteristics than leaders in traditional contexts. However, continuous change should not disrupt the focus and mission of the organization. While promoting a flexible and innovative attitude in the organization, the leader needs to clarify a common direction. Lynn Pulley and Sessa ( 2001 ) identify the ability to inspire and share a common vision about the future of the organization as one of the challenges of e-leaders, who are frequently confronted with the need for change. While acknowledging the importance of this skill, Horner-Long and Schoenberg ( 2002 ) did not find it to characterize e-leaders any more than traditional leaders.

Managing connectivity

Scholars maintain that e-leaders also need to foster their networking abilities. Beyond the need to explore and create networks to lobby for resources and stakeholder support (Horner-Long and Schoenberg, 2002 ) developing social interactions seems to play a key role in favoring innovation. As innovation becomes a top priority, leaders need to understand how to take advantage of networking opportunities (Avolio et al., 2014 ). The hyper-connected environment, in which leaders operate, especially with the ubiquitous use of social media and other digital platforms, provides new networking opportunities due both to an easier access to larger groups of individuals, and the possibility to establish connections through more immediate communication. New technologies and especially the advent of social networks might have reinforced the perception that being persistently part of the network is compulsory. As reported in Horner-Long and Schoenberg ( 2002 , p. 616) “in the new economy some leaders do nothing but network - there is no commercial need. It is simply networking for networking's sake.” Although it is a general requirement to be able to create and maintain social relationships with various stakeholders, effective leaders differ specifically in the ability to recognize those relationships that lead to tangible benefits (Horner-Long and Schoenberg, 2002 ).

The renaissance of technical skills

Lastly, scholars underscore the increased value of technical competencies. This represents a shift from the latest paradigm established over the past four decades, whereby leadership primarily requires emotional and social intelligence competencies that enable the leader to understand, motivate and manage his team effectively. Notwithstanding, leaders also need to understand and manage the use of various technologies. Indeed, IT knowledge and skills have become high on demand requirements to operate in a digitalized environment (Horner-Long and Schoenberg, 2002 ). Furthermore, the mastery of current technologies must be balanced with the ability to stay current on the newest technological developments (Roman et al., 2018 ). This emphasizes the need to adopt a life-long learning approach to developing one's digital skills.

Developing leadership skills in the digital era

To lead in the era of digital transformation requires individuals to be both people-oriented and technically minded (Diamante and London, 2002 ). These two skills often characterize very different profiles of people that, yet, need to come together in order to implement an effective digital transformation in their organization. The case study presented by Coutu ( 2000 ), highlights the need to establish a profitable exchange relationship between leaders of people-oriented (e.g., sales), and IT functions, in order to create a cross-functional and cross-skill contamination. Systematic knowledge dissemination from the individual to the group is highlighted as the most effective way to spread knowledge and expertise across the organization (Boe and Torgersen, 2018 ). Coutu ( 2000 ) addresses how this cross-skill contamination can be performed, by means of implementing reverse-mentoring programs. Nonetheless, the author uncovers the problem of potential generational conflicts, whereby newer generations, who tend to be more knowledgeable and skilled in digital technologies, may gain informational power over others, generating concern and skepticism in older, change averse, individuals (Coutu, 2000 ).

Studying modern military operational environments, Boe and Torgersen ( 2018 ) highlight the need to lead under volatile, uncertain and complex situations, characteristics they find similarly describe the context of modern e-businesses. According to the authors, leadership training needs to combine both technology and change, creating simulations of scenarios in which ambiguous information and improvisation create complex and uncertain conditions.

One way in which exposure to technology and simulations can be combined is through training in virtual spaces (Lisk et al., 2012 ; Lu et al., 2014 ). In large community games, leaders may have to recruit, motivate, reward, and retain talented team members. They have to make quick decisions that may affect their outcomes in the long-run, for which they need to analyze the environment in order to build and keep their competitive advantage (Avolio et al., 2014 ). Lu et al. ( 2014 ) adopt experiential learning theory (Kolb and Kolb, 2005 ) to explain e-leadership skills development, referring to activities in which learning is performed in a virtual context. Their study attempts to empirically examine the transferability of virtual experiences into in-role job situations. Results show partial association between virtual games behaviors and hierarchical position of the participants, however, conclusions concerning the transferability of certain skills or experiences gained in virtual games may be highly affected by reverse causality. Ducheneaut and Moore ( 2005 ), conduct a virtual ethnography to show that people participating in multiplayer role-playing games train behaviors related to networking, management and coordination in small groups. However, in a recent review on the use of games, based on digital tools or virtual realities, for training leadership skills, Lopes et al. ( 2013 ) highlight a general lack of theoretical grounding in the development and analysis of virtual games. Moreover, they find extant studies rarely show these games affect leadership skill outcomes (Lopes et al., 2013 ). Robin et al. ( 2011 ) find that while simulations facilitate learning, they do not seem to lead to better results than traditional methods. The authors suggest simulations' main advantage lies in the possibility to enable learning in situations where it would otherwise be difficult or impossible. They thus propose the use of a combination of traditional and technology-based training to achieve the most effective learning outcomes.

Leading Virtual Teams

The introduction of digital tools has enable the organizational structure to become not only flatter and decentralized, but also dispersed. One way in which digital technology has shaped organizational life and people management has been by enabling the potential use of virtual teams. Virtual teams are defined as “interdependent groups of individuals that work across time, space, and organizational boundaries with communication links that are heavily dependent upon advanced information technologies” (Hambley et al., 2007 , p. 1). They have become increasingly pervasive in the last years, especially in multinational organizations (Gupta and Pathak, 2018 ).

Indeed, several benefits of virtual teams have been acknowledged in the literature. First, the use of virtual teams has allowed for a dramatic reduction of travel times and costs (Bartol and Liu, 2002 ; Bergiel et al., 2008 ). Second, it has enabled teams to draw upon a varied array of expertise, regardless of location (Jawadi et al., 2013 ), making it easier to access and recruit talent across the globe. Third, by facilitating the heterogeneity of team members, it has fostered creativity and innovation, due to the possibility of combining different perspectives (Gupta and Pathak, 2018 ).

Despite its advantages, certain specificities of virtual teams' challenge the traditional way in which teams are managed and led. For instance, virtual teams are characterized by geographical and/or organizational distance. This implies that leaders cannot physically observe team members' behavior nor rely on verbal cues, facial expressions, and other non-verbal communication in order to understand the team's thoughts, feelings, moods and actions. This is considered one of the biggest barriers to developing and managing interpersonal relationships (Jawadi et al., 2013 ). The heavy dependence on ICT may lead to communication problems, such as failing to distribute information to all team members, understand or convey the level of urgency or importance of the information, and interpret silence (Cascio and Montealegre, 2016 ). Geographical dispersion often implies cultural diversity between team members, which may affect leaders' ability to build and maintain team spirit and trust (Gupta and Pathak, 2018 ). According to Sullivan et al. ( 2015 ), space may suppress leadership capacity, even in situations of shared leadership. Moreover, virtual teams are subject to time differences.

In order to overcome these challenges, virtual team leaders need to adopt specific behaviors and practices. One of the most important practices highlighted in the literature involves the setting and periodical revision of communication norms within the team (Jawadi et al., 2013 ). Instead of focusing on behavioral norms, as in traditional teams, virtual teams require a clear definition of the norms pertaining to their use of communication tools, through witch information flows and activities are performed. Clear communication norms entail a number of advantages for virtual teams, such as: correct exchange of information, regular interaction and feedback, less ambiguity about teamwork processes, better monitoring of each member's contributions, faster detection of problems and mistakes. Moreover, because leaders play a fundamental role in enabling and mediating the communication between team members, they are able to lead them in the construction of a common language. This involves gaining a deep understanding of the underlying meaning of words and expressions used in the team. The mutual understanding of the organizational and social context in which each team member is embedded facilitates this process (Plowman et al., 2007 ; Bjørn and Ngwenyama, 2009 ; Rafaeli et al., 2009 ).

As mentioned in the previous section, virtual team leaders also need to be able to choose the right communication tools and navigate well through their functionalities and the interactivity across various tools, if they are to avoid disruptions in communication and achieve a more vivid and open communication that favors positive team member relationships (Jawadi et al., 2013 ). While synchronous communication is considered more appropriate to manage complex, interdependent tasks (Hambley et al., 2007 ), asynchronous instruments may allow for team members with different backgrounds to adopt their own pace in processing others' ideas or generating new ones (Malhotra et al., 2007 ). Moreover, asynchronous communication facilitates a continuous flow of information and the ability to work for a greater number of hours (Gupta and Pathak, 2018 ). Furthermore, leaders need to use multiple channels with different levels of richness (Hambley et al., 2007 ). According to Hambley et al. ( 2007 ), “a rich medium allows for transmitting multiple verbal and nonverbal clues, using natural language, providing immediate feedback, and conveying personal feelings and emotions.” A richer tool is supposed to lead to better team cohesion. Yet, the authors found mixed results in terms of the association between constructive interaction and task performance (Hambley et al., 2007 ).

Virtual teams often group together individuals from different educational, functional, geographical and cultural backgrounds. On one hand, such heterogeneity should promote innovative solutions, but on the other hand, it may also undermine collaboration. A virtual team leader thus needs to have good cross-cultural skills (Schwarzmüller et al., 2018 ), to identify different cultures' characteristics and understand similarities and differences across cultures. Especially at the early stages of a virtual team's lifecycle, the leader needs to assure that the diversity of team members is understood, appreciated, and leveraged. As virtual teams do not usually have the chance to enjoy in-person informal activities typically used to share personal characteristics and abilities and foster team building, the leader needs to share and manage personal information virtually and ensure the team has a clear understanding of each team member's expertise and skills (Malhotra et al., 2007 ). Once the diversification of skills is acknowledged, virtual teams can also benefit from a clear distribution of roles and tasks (Jawadi et al., 2013 ). Especially if virtual teams adopt asynchronous communication tools, tasks and schedules need to be clearly defined to avoid delays due to task misallocation or overlapping.

According to Malhotra et al. ( 2007 ), virtual teams may also engage in practices aimed at digitally monitoring the team activity, relying on remote monitoring of virtual communication and participation, as well as document posting. However, Jawadi et al. ( 2013 ) notice how monitoring and controlling mechanisms may be negatively perceived by team members. Indeed, their findings show that behaviors directed at monitoring and coordinating team interactions are not associated with higher leader-member relationship quality. According to Carte et al. ( 2006 ), high performing virtual teams are characterized by monitoring behaviors, but only when these are shared between members. Although, traditional performance appraisal and monitoring mechanisms are being replaced by alternative systems that rely on real-time digital feedback, the key features that characterize effective face-to-face feedback have been kept (Petrucci and Rivera, 2018 ).

Perhaps the best measure of impact of the pervasive adoption of virtual teams in organizations has been the extensive accumulation of literature focused on studying the phenomenon, alongside its antecedents, challenges and outcomes. As our study reveals, scholars have identified a number of best practices, whereby virtual team leaders become the key players in charge of resolving the challenges posed by physical and organizational distance.

However, especially when considering virtual teams, there has been a shift in the literature to steer away from traditional notions of leadership as being assigned to one individual, toward focusing on new conceptualizations of shared and distributed leadership. Virtual teams, which are often cross-functional, are indeed characterized by a relative absence of formal hierarchical authority (Pearce et al., 2009 ). In the same way that the need for speed in responding to accelerated environmental change and higher connectivity led to the development of virtual teams, that same need may be driving the flattening of hierarchical structures toward more evenly distributed, shared and empowered leadership among virtual team members (Pearce et al., 2009 ). As such, virtual teams are often left alone to shape and define their own leadership style, which may encourage all team members to perceive themselves as leaders and drive the collective development of leadership skills (Gupta and Pathak, 2018 ). In these so called self-managing work teams (SMWTs; Manz and Sims, 1987 ; Druskat and Wheeler, 2003 ), decisions and leadership responsibilities are equitably allocated among team members, who are also engaged in supporting and accompanying each other in the accomplishment of their tasks. The concept of shared leadership does not necessarily imply the rejection of a “formal” leader, but introduces the idea that any team member may be a leader, and as such, is expected to assess the team in its context and assert what is best for the team: whether to volunteer himself as team leader or empower any fellow team member(s) to serve the team as leader(s). This process leads to the creation of a shared understanding of both the leadership responsibilities and the power dynamics within the team (Grisoni and Beeby, 2007 ; Hoch and Kozlowski, 2014 ; Hoegl and Muethel, 2016 ).

Toward The Future: Research Directions

Despite the urgency felt by scholars to understand how leaders keep the pace with technological change, the literature seems to lack a shared approach in studying and theorizing about this phenomenon. Although researchers have been introducing relevant new concepts, such as e-leader and e-organizations, there is a shortage of well-established and consensual definitions in the literature. Our review reveals scholars have relied on several leadership theories to explain the relationship between leadership and digital transformation. However, we question whether theories based on traditional views of industrial organization and business, that still prevail in the literature, are the most suitable to comprehend the multifaceted phenomenon of digital transformation and its impact on all matters leadership of organizations, communities, teams, and even self. As suggested by Kahai et al. ( 2013 ), scholars may need to go beyond traditional leadership theories to explain the impact digitalization exerts on leadership and leaders. Are the existing theories in social sciences able to explain the antecedents, characteristics and outcomes of this disruptive phenomenon or do we need new theoretical lenses to make sense of how leaders may respond to this change?

One of the most complex and pressing issues concerns e-leaders (un)ethical behaviors. Notably, the higher risk leaders now face of engaging in unethical uses of personal and sensitive information, or the inexistence of a code of conduct for ethical leadership behavior are critical concerns to raise in any debate of e-leadership (Lee, 2009 ). Collaboration through digital technologies brings about new questions regarding the role leaders may play in the digital environment. What is the role of leaders in guiding an ethical appropriation of digital technologies? What can e-leaders do in order to be an example and instill an ethical culture within their followers? How do digital tools such as social media and online communities and forums change the conditions under which interactions occur and how do these affect the maintenance of ethical behaviors? These are questions that future research is pressed to answer. While the theoretical debate has already started to address some of these questions, empirical research remains considerably underdeveloped.

The present review uncovers a shortage of contributions addressing the role that institutions play in supporting ethical behaviors of leaders. In particular, what remains unclear is whether and how leaders will be prepared to face the new wave of data and policies that affect their ability to manage privacy and regulatory issues. Studies in this area are thus highly encouraged.

The leader-follower relationships mediated by ICTs can also be affected by concerns for privacy and information that the parties do not want to share. Social media interactions, for example, leave digital footprints that can be monitored by leaders and organizations, which may compromise the interactions and responses of followers that feel their privacy is at risk. The same can be said regarding the instruments that digital technologies provide for tracing personal productivity. Project management applications, for instance, trace individual contributions to a certain project, but can challenge an impartial evaluation if the relationship between individual effort and contribution to the results is not clear, thus putting into question the trust in the relationship with leaders. Future research should consider these aspects and work toward a broader comprehension of how to balance the need for higher transparency in ICT- mediated relationships with followers' higher autonomy and need for privacy.

We acknowledge that the introduction and use of digital tools it strictly linked to organizational cultures that value the use of technology and establishes the readiness of organizations to successfully implement digital tools. Therefore, we suggest further research needs to investigate the extent to which culture affects the selection and effective implementation of digital technologies within organizations. Answering to this question also provides relevant information on how digital technology alters organizational identity and shapes new organizational boundaries. Exploring this line of inquiry using both theoretical and empirical approaches, may inform the creation of new organizational identities, and their relationship with different types of organizations and institutions.

Since digitalization is enabling a growing propensity to share information, organizational boundaries are becoming more fluid and expanding outside the formal organization. Hence, collective forms of leadership are expected to increase. Notably, distributed or shared leadership is supposed to gain momentum, especially if it is considered a better fit to the characteristics of virtual teams, such as the informal nature of its communication channels, task interdependence and team member autonomy (Avolio et al., 2014 ; Hoch and Kozlowski, 2014 ). What remains unclear is the role that leaders play in recognizing and encouraging distributed leadership in teams. Moreover, how much does the success of shared leadership styles depend on the organizational culture? What is the effect of shared leadership on virtual team dynamics? We claim that these are questions that should be explored with greater detail in the future.

Networked organizations, as well as the rise of virtual teams, speak volumes about the endless connectivity possibilities that digital technology has enabled. However, empirical studies on virtual teams also highlight that digital tools and media can disconnect individuals and undermine established power dynamics. Despite the relevance of increased connectivity, only a few studies adopt a network approach to understand how leaders and followers are interconnected to one another.

Literature has already acknowledged that the lack of face-to-face interactions makes the task of leading virtual teams a more complex job (Purvanova and Bono, 2009 ). Indeed, the physical and cultural distance that characterizes virtual teams threatens the ability to build trust, create commitment and enhance cohesion among team members (Hoch and Kozlowski, 2014 . As suggested by Lee ( 2009 ) trust in virtual teams is related to ethics: the way in which leaders and team members behave, the extent to which they demonstrate transparency when interacting with others, the integrity and compliance to the rules and procedures of the organization and the team are key issues that should not be neglected. However, little is known about the methods and behaviors that effective leaders can adopt in order to build trust in virtual teams. Literature on this topic needs contributions that focus specifically on the process of trust creation in virtual teams, describing its characteristics and mechanisms and informing about which digital tools can be used to support such process. Indeed, along with the ability of creating trust among team members, virtual team leaders are required to have the ability of choosing and exploiting the right communication tools (Jawadi et al., 2013 ; Roman et al., 2018 ). Future research should try to uncover the effect different characteristics of communication tools may have on team dynamics and leader-followers relationships.

The lack of face-to-face interaction also creates new challenges in the deployment of social skills. Processes related to interpersonal understanding may be inhibited by distance and by the use of interfaces. Indeed, comparing traditional face-to-face teams and pure virtual teams, Balthazard et al. ( 2009 ) found that leader characteristics that are easier to perceive from nonverbal cues, such as personality traits, predicted the emergence of transformational leadership in face-to-face teams, but not in computer-mediated teams. Considering the importance of social understanding and affect-based perceptions, we encourage future research that analyzes the ways in which leaders can create positive emotional contagion, through technology. For example, it could be interesting to inquire whether the use of facial/emotional recognition devices (Pentland and Choudhury, 2000 ), and affective haptics (Arafsha et al., 2012 ) can contribute to interpersonal emotional understanding and sharing, and how it affects leader-follower relationships and team dynamics. Balthazard et al. ( 2009 ) found written communication quality to be positively related to the emergence of transformational leadership in virtual teams. Indeed, the increasing adoption of written communication-based tools such as chats, social media, or document sharing platforms, calls for the use of linguistic analysis of online communication to understand how leaders effectively instill emotions, convey their vision, or communicate urgency through text.

As suggested by Avolio et al. ( 2014 ), leadership in the digital world may be influenced by gender. Men and women may adopt different criteria in choosing which technologies to adopt. However, this topic of research has earned little attention in the literature. We claim that other studies are needed to investigate more in depth gender differences, and its effect on organizational outcomes.

Another topic that future researcher needs to address regards the way in which leaders can develop the skills needed to perform in the digital era. Some scholars maintain virtual games might be useful instruments to foster both social and technical skills (Ducheneaut and Moore, 2005 ; Lu et al., 2014 ). However, findings have not yet showed whether virtual games have a clear effect on social and digital skills development. We suggest future research could inspect what types of virtual behaviors foster team engagement and higher team performance in multiplayer virtual games, while examining the role of these variables in organizational settings. Other scholars propose digital natives and technical experts in organizations may be engaged in the training of those who are less familiar with or demonstrate a negative attitude toward the adoption of technology, for example by means of reverse mentoring programs (Coutu, 2000 ). However, conditions that can favor a successful digital transformation of organizations should be analyzed. The technological skill advantage of young generations may destabilize traditional power relations. A closer look to this phenomenon is suggested.

In a digital world where physical presence is becoming unnecessary, the possibility that some leadership responsibilities begin to be performed by AI-based technology is not unrealistic. A tough debate is raising awareness as to whether robots can be programmed to express emotions and how this fosters the possibility that robots may be better leaders than humans (Avolio et al., 2014 ). Complementing the literature that has so far stressed the importance of emotions and emotional intelligence for leaders' performance (see for instance Boyatzis, 2006 ; Boyatzis et al., 2017 ), future research should shed light on whether and how robots, algorithms and technological tools substitute or complement leaders.

Even if macro and micro level of analysis are explored by social science scholars, management literature would still lack the analysis of the phenomenon of leadership and digitalization at the meso-level. A promising way of combining micro and macro levels of theorizing might be to introduce a multiple level of analysis. Some of the papers in our dataset move toward this direction, however, it is not clear how digitalization is affecting relationships between diverse organizations.

Finally, from a methodological point of view, our study shows a plethora of methods employed by scholars to analyze leaders' behavior (Hambley et al., 2007 ; Malhotra et al., 2007 ; Jawadi et al., 2013 ), leaders' skills (Horner-Long and Schoenberg, 2002 ; Roman et al., 2018 ), or technology adoption (Bartol and Liu, 2002 ; Weiner et al., 2015 ). If on one hand, this richness provides a portfolio of techniques that scholars could use depending on the subject of analysis, on the other hand, it confirms that there is still a confusion about how to monitor this recent phenomenon. Moreover, we observe that contributions are confined within their own disciplinary frontiers. For instance, social movements literature, that mainly draws on qualitative methods such as ethnography, case study, and interviews, should inform organizational scholars how to observe power relations within companies. Extant contributions investigating what are the skills leaders facing the digital transformation require are based mainly on experts' surveys and interviews. Literature reveals a lack of empirical research which examines the relationship between identified leadership skills and successful performance in highly digitalized organizations. Future studies should also take into account how much this relationship may be affected by the context in which the leader operates.

Nowadays, digital transformation is an unavoidable choice for any company, regardless of size or sector. Leaders cope with new tools on a daily basis and they make decisions according to the data they have access to. Therefore, we highly encourage future research to shed more light on the effect of digital transformation on leadership, both at organizational and individual level. If the debate about the relationship between human beings and machine is not a recent one (Turing, 1950 ), not to management literature, nor social sciences in general, the relationship between digital transformation and leadership requires updated lenses. This systematic review offers a structured framework of a promising field, and we hope it will help future research generate coherent efforts to garner novel and relevant knowledge in this research topic.

The purpose of this review was 3-fold. First, we discussed how leadership in the digital era has been conceptualized, reviewing the theoretical perspectives that have been used in prior research. Our review did not reveal a strong unifying theory of the relationship between leadership and digital transformation, thus calling for more attention to theoretical contributions.

Second, we mapped the academic debate on the relationship between digital transformation and leadership, organizing and structuring the main emerging themes at macro and micro level of analysis. We observed that both contributions with micro and macro approaches underscore that information technology and strategic management need greater alignment. Digital transformation is successful in the long term when the overall organizational objectives match the need to adopt a new digital tools or instruments. In a similar vein, individuals embrace technological advancement only when they perceive it is relevant to their tasks. It is an important responsibility of the leader, particularly of C-level leaders, to steer this strategic alignment and the proliferation of a digital culture.

In a networked economy, the digital transformation has led organizations to open their boundaries, and connect with other industries, stakeholders, and customers, to generate innovation. From a micro perspective, this openness is also required by leaders who need to invest in networking. This means to be “out there” (Grafström and Falkman, 2017 ), present in the network (Gordon, 2007 ), and willing to communicate with different types of stakeholders, through digital tools and social media. Especially for leaders, the digital tools are no longer a distant container of everyday life; rather, they are instruments in which everyday life emerges (Gordon, 2007 ).

Although the introduction of digital tools influenced organizational boundaries and leadership boundaries, for instance favoring the development of concepts such as shared leadership, studies show that trust among members and employees is still achieved and maintained through leaders' intervention (Carte et al., 2006 ). Cascio and Montealegre ( 2016 , p. 356), reminds us that inspirational leaders will remain pivotal in making the right decisions, as “humans will continue to enjoy a strong comparative advantage over machines.” However, the growing development and use of AI-based technology to make decisions, calls for a closer understanding of what leadership will mean in the future. Growing ethical concerns related to the application of AI in managerial activities as well as to the appropriation of technology and data are becoming an urgent topic to address.

To overcome the challenges derived from the digital transformation, leaders are required to develop a combination of digital and human skills, mainly related to the ability to communicate effectively in a digitalized context, create cohesion between geographically distant followers, foster initiative and change attitudes, and deal with complex and fast problem solving.

Third, we highlighted the current gaps and open questions in the literature, and laid out a future research agenda that targets opportunities for the empirical and theoretical advancement of knowledge.

While our review is timely and includes the most recent contributions, some limitations should be considered and overcome in future studies. First, since our concern was to map prior research, we have not provided detailed propositions to the suggested categories, a void that should be addressed by future studies. The second concern regards the sample. We drew from the Scopus database only. Albeit we checked other databases to avoid potential bias, we may have missed some relevant articles contained elsewhere. Third, despite the rigorous procedure of our systematic review, a limitation is ascribed to the inclusion of only peer-reviewed articles and conference proceedings. A future review should also include industry research reports, professional outlets publishing research-based findings, and other non-pear reviewed manuscripts to better clarify how the multidimensional phenomenon of digitalization is affecting organizations and leadership. Finally, we excluded, as per our boundary conditions, articles that considered organizations as leaders in the digital transformation, and studies that discussed about digital platforms. Future studies should adopt a broader overview of the macro-organizational and strategic effects in order to understand how digital transformation is implemented across different organizations, communities and teams.

Author Contributions

LC and EB contributed conception and design of the study. LC, EB, and RZ organized and analyzed the database. LC and EB wrote the first draft of the manuscript. RZ wrote sections of the manuscript. All authors contributed to manuscript revision, read and approved the submitted version.

Conflict of Interest Statement

The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

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Original research article, digital leadership and employee creativity: the role of employee job crafting and person-organization fit.

thesis digital leadership

  • 1 Business School, Xiangtan University, Xiangtan, China
  • 2 School of Humanity, Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, Shanghai, China
  • 3 Economic and Trade School, Guangxi University of Finance and Economics, Nanning, China

Industry 4.0 has changed the paradigm in the business practice and business model, and digital technology has brought radical transformations to enterprises. To support this transformation, digital leaders are required to help enterprises transform and lead them to a more promising future. Based on job demands-resources model and person-organization fit theory, this study examines the relationship between digital leadership and employee creativity. Based on a sample of 357 employees from various Chinese companies, this study used SPSS 22.0 and MPLUS 7.0 to examine the hypotheses. The findings indicate the following (a) digital leadership has a positive effect on employee creativity. (b) employee job crafting mediate the relationship between digital leadership and employee creativity. (c) person-organization fit positively moderates the relationship between digital leadership and employee job crafting. (d) person-organization fit positively moderates the indirect effect of digital leadership on employee creativity via employee job crafting. The findings reveal the effect mechanism of digital leaders on employee creativity and enrich the literature on antecedents of employee creativity. Practical implications and future research are also discussed.


Industry 4.0 has given great impetus to the change in paradigm in the business practice and business model, dominated by digital technologies ( Mihardjo et al., 2019 ). In pace with the development of technologies in companies, such as mobile Internet, cloud computing, artificial intelligence, big data, the Internet of things, and blockchain, executives are increasingly facing various challenges associated with digitalization. Particular challenges are the simultaneous handling of many topics, considerable information flushing via digital channels, rapid changes, and finding the optimal balance between the old and the new ( Temelkova, 2018 ; Klus and Müller, 2021 ). For leaders, digital technologies mean new forms of communicating and organizing ( El Sawy et al., 2016 ), but classic leadership styles do not sufficiently address the opportunities and challenges arising from digitalization ( Klein, 2020 ). In conditions of significant shifts in the digital era, amid the social and technological environment, modern business organizations are increasingly requiring a new type of leadership able to thrive in a digital environment and that is characterized by high-tech skills leading to optimal management and optimal team collaboration ( Abbu and Gopalakrishna, 2021 ; Bresciani et al., 2021 ). Driven by the increasing influence of technology on leadership, digital leadership has been put forward emphasized. Digital leadership is defined as the leaders’ ability to create a clear and meaningful vision for the digitalization process and the capability to execute strategies to actualize it ( Larjovuori et al., 2016 ; de Araujo et al., 2021 ).

The existing literature of digital leadership concentrates on its effects at the macro level such as business mode innovation, innovation management, and dynamic capability ( Wasono and Furinto, 2018 ; Mihardjo et al., 2019 ; Promsri, 2019 ; Sasmoko et al., 2019 ). Sasmoko et al. (2019) argued that digital leadership is positively related to innovation capability ( Sasmoko et al., 2019 ). Wasono and Furinto (2018) argued that enterprises would increase sustainable competitive advantage in the disruptive era through strengthening the digital leadership and innovation management ( Wasono and Furinto, 2018 ). Mihardjo et al. (2019) suggested that digital leadership had direct and indirect impacts effects on customer experience orientation in developing business model innovation ( Mihardjo et al., 2019 ). Soon and Salamzadeh (2021) proposed that digital leadership has a great impact on virtual team effectiveness. However, organizational growth depends on the ability of generating to generate novel ideas and implementing those that are promising and feasible novel ideas. In short, creativity (the generation of the novel ideas) and innovation (the implementation of the novel ideas) are vital for the organization to survival survive and succeeds ( Anderson et al., 2014 ). Unfortunately, it is rare in literature studies that regard digital leadership as a key antecedents to predict employee creativity at the micro level are rare. Thereby, given the widespread adoption of network organization in most areas of business and the importance of employee creativity, it is vital to examine how and when digital leadership affects employee creativity. To address this theoretical gap, this study constructs a theoretical model to test the influence of digital leadership on employee creativity. As the job demands-resources model proposed, job characteristics can be categorized into two broad classes: job demands or job resources ( Bakker and Demerouti, 2007 ). Job resources can buffer the effect of job demands on exhaustion, whereas job demands strengthen the motivating role of job resources ( Demerouti et al., 2001 ). Consequently, individuals could seek resources and optimize demands to enhance the pool of resources and help deal with job demands by optimizing their burden ( Bakker and Demerouti, 2007 ). On the basis of job demands-resources model, we argue that job crafting will mediate the relationship between digital leadership and employee creativity. On the one hand, digital technology will improve the flexibility of the organization and the utilization of resources to some extent by empowerment ( Abbasi et al., 2020 ). On the other hand, digital technology has changed the traditional way of work ( Gilson et al., 2015 ). Therefore, employees will make job crafting to enable their abilities to fit their jobs, and then lead to enhance their creativity. That is to say, digital leadership may indirectly affect employee creativity via employee job crafting.

Moreover, person–organization fit theory assumes that is attitudes, behavior and other person level outcomes result not from the person or the organization independent of each other, but rather from the relationship between the person and organization ( Westerman and Cyr, 2004 ; Morley, 2007 ; Johnson et al., 2014 ). Person–organization fit is categorized into two broad classes: supplementary fit (measured by values congruence and personality congruence), and complementary fit (measured by work environment congruence) ( Kristof, 1996 ). Supplementary fit is typically assessed as similarity on psychological characteristics such as values, goals, attitudes, or personality traits, whereas complementary fit often refers to a person possessing the requisite knowledge, skills, and abilities to meet job demands ( Muchinsky and Monahan, 1987 ; Kristof-Brown et al., 2014 ; Seong et al., 2015 ). Person-organization fit has been proved to be related to behavior outcomes, including organizational commitment, organizational citizen behavior ( Wei, 2012 ), job performance ( Hoffman and Woehr, 2006 ), and innovative work behavior ( Afsar, 2016 ). Accordingly, high levels of person–organization fit can enhance the relationship between digital leadership and employee job crafting.

Overall, this study constructed a model to test how and when digital leadership affects employee creativity by integrating the job demands–resources model and person–organization fit theory. This study makes three contributions. First, by investigating the influence of digital leadership on employee creativity, this study not only enriches the research on leadership, but also explores the key antecedents of employee creativity. Second, this study examines the mediating effect of employee job crafting, that is, digital leadership indirectly relates to employee creativity through employee job crafting. Third, this study extends the boundary conditions under which the mediating effect of employee job crafting between digital leadership and employee creativity are strengthened or weakened.

Theory and Hypotheses

Digital leadership.

Enterprises have entered an age marked by rapid business, in organizational culture, and corresponding tensions between “change makers.” Therefore, organizations have become more flexible and create a decentralized workplaces for members to achieve the expectation of higher productivity ( Kane et al., 2019 ). Driven by the increasing influence of technology on leadership, a growing body of digital leadership has developed that draws on well-established human resources studies, but also takes new directions. Different ages have required different leadership styles. Throughout history, technological transformation has been shaping different types of leadership. Therefore, leadership has developed differently based on different patterns, such as hierarchy, power, authority and personality. However, in digital economy, digitization has significantly changed leadership styles and skills ( de Araujo et al., 2021 ), and poses new challenges to leaders. They need to adapt to the uncertain environment and enhance their digital knowledge to lead the companies effectively. To meet increasingly complex and changing demands, the concepts of digital leadership have emerged as the most relevant leadership styles.

Following prior work, we define digital leadership as the leaders’ ability to create a clear and meaningful vision for the digitalization process and the capability to execute strategies to actualize it ( Larjovuori et al., 2016 ). Digital leadership is regarded as a fast, cross-hierarchical, team-oriented, and cooperative leadership style, that keeps a strong focus on an organization’s innovation ( Oberer and Erkollar, 2018 ). Recently, a large and growing body of literature has explored the characteristics of digital leadership. Klein (2020) argued that digital leaders have creative thinking, foresight and insight. According to Larjovuori et al. (2016) , digital leadership has distinctive characteristics, such as creativity, in-depth knowledge, strong network and collaboration, and loyal participation via vision. Based on these studies, the digital leadership in this study considers a number of factors, including creativity, deep knowledge, global vision and collaboration, thinking, inquisition continual learning and sensitivity to digital opportunities. In line with Kane et al. (2019) , we hold the points that leaders need to have four key skills in digital age: transformational vision, forward-looking perspective, digital literacy and adaptability. First, providing vision and direction for enterprises and employees has long been an important part of leadership, but digital leadership have a new significance by placing more emphasis on controlling future changes. Leaders with a transformational vision can more effectively predict markets and trends, make smart business decisions, and solve difficult problems in turbulent times ( Luck et al., 2012 ). Second, leaders with a forward-looking perspective will have a clear vision and reasonable strategy, and can grasp the trend in the digital trend ( Klein, 2020 ). Third, digital literacy can support the first two skills. Leaders who lack digital knowledge hinder the development of emerging technologies and trends. A possible reason for this limitation that they can’t control both the value brought by emerging technologies and the threat to the organization. Finally, When the market and technology environment is full of unknown and uncertainty, adaptive performance helps organizations find a key way forward. This mentality can also promote leaders to update their professional knowledge and skills in time to ensure that they keep pace with the times.

Digital Leadership and Employee Creativity

The economy in the digital age is mainly manifested in high-level digitization, major technological progress and innovation. Therefore, enterprises need to produce and provide high value-added products and services, obtain competitive advantages over competitors, and optimize management processes ( Temelkova, 2018 ). Therefore, digital technology calls for a change in the role of leaders. Leaders need to have new skills to help their organization effectively deal with the uncertainty and complexity of the environment and lead organizations to a more dynamic future ( de Araujo et al., 2021 ).

Digital leadership plays an important role in promoting employee creativity ( Wasono and Furinto, 2018 ; Mihardjo et al., 2019 ). Employee creativity is defined as the generation of new and useful ideas for the organization, including new products, ideas, services, and management methods ( Baer and Oldham, 2006 ). In the era of digital economy, digital technology not only redefines leadership, but also has a far-reaching effect on organizations and employees ( Hensellek, 2020 ). Specifically, on the one hand, digitization is a process of constant change with an open outcome. Organizations are required to be more flexible and constantly adjust at all part of the organization. Owing to digitalization, leaders need to realize that their work environment and demands are changing. They no longer simply assign tasks to their subordinates and monitor the completion of tasks, but also involveed in creating space for the development of team members’ creative potential through collaboration and continuous learning ( Bass and Riggio, 2006 ). The digital transformation of enterprises also promotes leaders’ digital mindset, and they must be able to effectively and efficiently integrate digital technologies into the day-to-day work of themselves and their employee ( Hensellek, 2020 ). Digital leader are willing to set a good example and take responsibility for digitalization efforts to signal his/her commitment to mitigating the inherent uncertainties of digitalization.

On the other hand, in pace with the development of technologies in companies such as mobile Internet, cloud computing, artificial intelligence, big data, the Internet of things, blockchain, and other technologies in companies ( Temelkova, 2018 ), digital technology has changed the traditional way of work. Using digital tools, executives can establish remote workplaces and virtual teams to complete tasks by independence from a given time and place as well as changing work demands in general ( Gilson et al., 2015 ). The emergence of WeCom, DingTalk, and email increasingly facilitates the employees’ communication and knowledge sharing within organizations, and promotes their job autonomy and creativity. In summary, digital leaders are able to articulate an explicit transformational vision and forward-looking perspective for a digital future, and have both the positive attitude and the necessary skills to stimulate employee creativity.

Digital leadership can also help enterprises formulate future development plans, initiate sustainable changes and promote enterprise performance by accessing to the latest technical information and establishing appropriate relationships ( Larjovuori et al., 2016 ). Digital technology has fundamentally changed the way people communicate and interact with each other and the way companies operate in the market. The leadership function has also changed from the traditional “command and control” to “communication and cooperation” ( Gozman and Willcocks, 2019 ). Given that information is becoming open in the Internet and digital era, everyone has the ability to obtain, process and apply information, and apply digital assistant technology to better complete tasks ( Wasono and Furinto, 2018 ). Therefore, digital leadership not only needs to master the latest technical knowledge at all times and set an example for employees to learn continuously, but also provide appropriate authorization to create an atmosphere supporting innovation for the team. Team members will adjust their working methods to adapt to the changing environment, better complete work tasks and stimulate their creativity based on leadership behavior and supporting innovation atmosphere.

Hypothesis 1: Digital leadership is positively related to employee creativity.

Digital Leadership and Employee Job Crafting

Employee job crafting can be regarded as a bottom-up approach to job redesign in which employees could find work meaning and fit their organization by altering their jobs ( Demerouti et al., 2021 ). In this study, we conceptualize employee job crafting from the perspective of the job demands-resources model. Accordingly, job crafting represents the changes that employees make to balance their job demands and job resources with their personal abilities and needs ( Tims et al., 2012 ). Employees can change their jobs in many ways. Examples include adjusting the scope of activities executed at work, changing with whom they work, refreshing job meaning, making changes to the knowledge and skills required by their work, or avoiding interaction with unpleasant clients ( Meijerink et al., 2020 ). Through job crafting, employees can improve their work to fit their individual skills, needs, and preferences ( Tims and Parker, 2020 ).

The job demands-resources model was first proposed by Demerouti et al. (2001) in, and has been gradually improved through the continuous development of scholars. According to the job demands-resources model, all job characteristics can be categorized into two broad classes: job demands and job resources. Job demands represent all aspects of the job that require sustained physical and/or psychological (cognitive and emotional) effort or skills ( Bakker and Demerouti, 2007 ; Demerouti et al., 2021 ). Therefore, job demands are associated with certain physiological or psychological costs and work stress. Job resources refer to those aspects of the job that are either/or functional in achieving work goals. Thus job resources can reduce job demands and stimulate personal growth, learning, and development ( Bakker and Demerouti, 2007 ). In this case, job resources can buffer the impact of job demands on exhaustion, whereas job demands strengthen the motivating role of job resources. As a result, individuals could seek and increase resources to deal with the growing job demands, so as to balance job resource and job demand.

The important manifestation of modern business organizations is authorization and self-management. In the digital economy era, the economy is developing rapidly and on a large scale. The vigorous development of technological innovation, big data, cloud computing and artificial intelligence provide new impetus for value creation and employment in the new situation ( Temelkova, 2018 ). Facing the rapidly changing environment and the increase of complex tasks, the organization needs to have greater flexibility to deal with a series of non-routine, non-repetitive, complex and challenging team tasks. A single person is unlikely to be able to Edelmann et al. (2020) . Therefore, digital leaders need authorization, and encourage employees to participate in the decision-making process. This kind of leadership will effectively help organizations in expressing different ideas ( Abbasi et al., 2020 ), and promoting employee job crafting. First, digital leadership can promote the integration of new digital technology into workplaces that promote employee job crafting. Specifically, to keep pace with the development of digital technology, employees will optimize work with new methods, so as to realize automation and intelligence of their work. Second, digital leadership provide employees with discretion and enhancing individuals’ motivation and sense of ability to perform tasks ( Agarwal and Farndale, 2017 ). These management methods subverts the traditional form of highly centralized power and give individuals in the organization sufficient resources and autonomy to complete tasks in the digital environment. Additionally, digital leadership also helps enterprises make “real-time” decisions to quickly and flexibly deal with uncertainties and future challenges, which require individual to remodel their work to better fit the environment ( Dahou and Hacini, 2018 ). Lastly, digital leadership can also improve employees’ job crafting by reducing employees’ work pressure. For example, they also help followers to make adjustments between work roles and personal value, and stimulate individuals’ trust in the organization ( Ruiz-Palomo et al., 2020 ). High-quality digital leaders succeed in creating a shared sense of “us” in the organization, and this organizational identification in turn produces positive results and helps reduce work stress. All in all, digital leaders will stimulate employee job crafting through promoting the usage of new digital technology, providing the direction for the organization, making “real-time” decisions and helping employee adjust ( Edelmann et al., 2020 ).

Hypothesis 2: Digital leadership is positively related to employee job crafting.

Mediating Effect of Employee Job Crafting Between Digital Leadership and Employee Creativity

Employee job crafting is a type of proactive or self-initiated and change-oriented behavior to ensure a better fit between the job and person ( Tims et al., 2012 ), which will be influenced by leadership behavior and resources needed to complete the task. In the case of the digital age, employees are easily be exposed to pressure, physical and emotional exhaustion without sufficient resources needed for work. However, digital leadership, as a new leadership model in the digital era, can promote knowledge sharing, resource acquisition, mutual cooperation and continuous self-management among members in organizations. Consequently, digital leadership can better integrate culture and digital competence to utilize digital technology as part of leadership style to bring value to organizations and promote employee job crafting ( Wasono and Furinto, 2018 ). On the one hand, digital leader will provide sufficient resources to help their subordinates effectively dealing with the job demands they face during job crafting, preventing high levels of exhaustion. On the other hand, digital leader can also optimize instead of reducing job demands to help employees reserving energy, thereby avoiding energy depletion ( Petrou et al., 2015 ).

Employee job crafting also have positive effects to employees’ creativity. First, Job crafting behaviors may result in increased organizational commitment because through crafting, employees may improve the balance of challenges and demands to find a better fit ( Tims et al., 2016 ). Second, individuals engage in job crafting to stimulate creativity, their fulfillment at work, positive work identity, work-related well-being, and job performance ( Tims et al., 2012 ). Third, job crafting can trigger positive change attitudes through the meaning-making process that it stimulates. Finding meaning implies that individuals are able to understand what happens around them and link changes in their work environment to their own personal goals and values helping them to remain creative vitality ( Demerouti et al., 2021 ). Thus, the following hypothesis is proposed.

Hypothesis 3: Employee job crafting mediates the relationship between digital leadership and employee creativity.

Moderating Role of Person-Organization Fit

Person-organization fit describes the interpersonal compatibility between individuals and members of their immediate work companies ( Kristof-Brown and Stevens, 2001 ). Given the growing competition for talent among organizations, examining person-organization fit’s effect on individual behavior is urgent and necessary ( Kristof-Brown et al., 2005 ; Swider et al., 2015 ). Values has been seen as the most suitable way of operationalizing fit, because values constitute a reliable guide to understanding a wide range of subsequent work attitudes and behavior ( Chen et al., 2016 ). In line with previous research, we mainly focus on the congruence of employees’ values ( Chen et al., 2016 ).

According to person-organization fit theory, an individual’s behavior results from the interaction between the person and the organization ( Argyris, 1957 ). Person-organization fit can be categorized into two broad classes: supplementary fit and needs–supplies fit. Supplementary fit is typically assessed as similarity on psychological characteristics such as values, goals, attitudes, or personality traits. Complementary fit often refers to a person possessing the requisite knowledge, skills, and abilities to meet job demands ( Muchinsky and Monahan, 1987 ; Kristof-Brown et al., 2014 ; Seong et al., 2015 ). Person-organization fit theory posits that organizations have characteristics that have the potential to be congruent with characteristics of individuals, and that individuals’ attitudes and behaviors will be influenced by the degree of congruence or “fit” between individuals and organizations ( Argyris, 1957 ; Pervin, 1989 ). Consequently, a better person-organization fit has been linked to organizational attraction and retention, recruiters’ selection decisions, and employees’ work-related attitudes and proactive actions.

In the context of digitalization, person-organization fit has been argued to result in an increase in motivation, effort, energy, and persistence, as well as involvement with the organizational mission ( Wang et al., 2011 ; Hamstra et al., 2019 ). When individuals’ values fits with the organization’s values, digital leaders hold the point that members in their company embrace similar values, thus enabling them to trust each other and communicate about important issues ( Edwards and Cable, 2009 ). Such behavior transmit a signal that leaders think highly of their value ( Nordin et al., 2019 ). Accordingly, employees will show more positive attitudes and behaviors, and have sufficient motivation to craft their job and achieve organizational goals. Under this situation, a higher person-organization fit helps digital leaders establish a more positive and harmonious relationship with their employees and gives employees the motivation of “should do” to craft the way they work, compared witha lower person-organization fit ( Safavi and Bouzari, 2020 ). Analogously, a high fit with the organization will be beneficial to reduce employee turnover and improving the digital leaders willingness to help employee make adjustments between work roles and personal value, and stimulate employee job crafting ( Hamstra et al., 2019 ). Consequently, the higher the person-organization fit, the higher leaders’ interactions with their employees in organization, and the greater the inspiration for knowledge sharing and resource inter-flow to promote employee job crafting ( Hung et al., 2020 ).

Hypothesis 4: Person-organization fit moderates the relationship between digital leadership and employee job crafting, such that the relationship is stronger among organization with high person-organization fit than among those with low person-organization fit.

Moderated Mediating Effect

Hypotheses 4, respectively, illustrate a moderating effect of person-organization fit on the relationship of “digital leadership-job crafting.” According to the above discussions, this study integrates the job demands-resources model and person-organization fit theory to construct a moderating mediation model, which is based on the moderating mediator inference method ( Edwards and Lambert, 2007 ). That is, person-organization fit positively moderates the mediating effects of digital leadership on employee creativity via employee job crafting. Thus, the following hypothesis is proposed.

Hypothesis 5: Person-organization fit positively moderates the indirect effect of digital leadership on employee creativity through employee job crafting. That is, the higher the level of person-organization fit, the greater the mediating effect of employee job crafting.

The theoretical model of this study is shown in Figure 1 .

Figure 1. Theoretical model.

Materials and Methods

Sample and procedures.

This survey was conducted between April and May of 2021 with a web-based questionnaire. Participants were recruited in the following ways. Firstly, we sent the questionnaire to the companies’ employees by directly contacting the companies’ human resources supervisor, who further distributed the questionnaire to the employees. Second, we indirectly distributed questionnaires with the help of MBA students who worked in various Chinese companies.

The questionnaire survey was composed of two stages: In Time 1 (T1), employees complete questionnaires regarding a predictor variable (digital leadership), a moderating variable (person-organization fit), and demographic variables (age, gender, education, working seniority, and position). After a month, at Time 2 (T2), the same participants completed questionnaires regarding mediating variables (employee job crafting) and a dependent variable (employee creativity). To match the responses of T1 and T2, participants were asked to fill in the last four digits of their ID numbers in the questionnaire.

A total of 457 questionnaires were collected, and 100 were discarded for missing data, leaving 357 valid questionnaires and a response rate of 78.1%. Among the samples, 145 (40.6%) are males and 212 (59.4%) are females. In terms of age, 189 (52.9%) are below 30 years old, 135 (37.8%) are between 31 and 40 years old, 33 (9.2%) are over 41 years old. In terms of education, 67(18.8%) reach a junior college degree or below, 245 (68.6%) has a bachelor’s degree, and 45(12.6%) has a master’s degree or above. In terms of working seniority, 178(49.9%) answered less than 5 years, 121 (33.9%) for 6–10 years, and 58 (16.2%) for more than 11 years.

All scales’ items were originally developed in English and were therefore translated into Chinese, and all scales’ items are measured on a five-point Likert scale from 1 = “strongly disagree” to 5 = “strongly agree.”

Digital leadership was measured with the six-item scale developed by Zeike et al. (2019) . The items are as follow: (1) my leader think using digital tools is fun; (2) my leader is a digital expert; (3) When it comes to digital knowledge, my leader is always up to date; (4) my leader driving the digital transformation forward proactively in our unit; (5) my leader can make others enthusiastic about the digital transformation; (6) my leader have a clear idea of the structures and processes that are needed for the digital transformation. Cronbach’s alpha for this scale was 0.852.

Employee Job Crafting

Employee job crafting was measured with the 21-item scale developed by Tims et al. (2012) . We use three dimensions (increasing job resources, increasing challenging job demands and decreasing hindering job demands) with and 15 items. Considering repetition in the translation, three items are deleted and the scale with 12 items was used. The items were as follows: (1) I try to develop my capabilities; (2) I try to develop myself professionally; (3) I try to learn new things at work; (4) I make sure that I use my capacities to the fullest; (5) I decide on my own how I do things; (6) I make sure that my work is mentally less intense; (7) I try to ensure that my work is emotionally less intense; (8) I manage my work so that I try to minimize contact with people whose problems affect me emotionally; (9) I organize my work to minimize contact with people whose expectations are unrealistic; (10) when an interesting project comes along, I offer myself proactively as project co-worker; (11) when there is not much to do at work, I see it as a chance to start new projects; (12) I regularly take on extra tasks even though I do not receive extra salary for them. Cronbach’s alpha for this scale was 0.871.

Person-Organization Fit

Person-organization fit was measured with the five-item scale developed by Resick et al. (2007) . The items were as follows: (1) I feel my values “match” or fit this organization and the current employees in this organization; (2) I think the values and personality of this organization reflect my own values and personality; (3) the values of this organization are similar to my own values; (4) my values match those of current employees in this organization; (5) I feel my personality matches the “personality” or image of this organization. Cronbach’s alpha for this scale was 0.827.

Employee Creativity

Employee creativity was measured with the four-item scale developed by Baer and Oldham (2006) . The items were as follows: (1) I suggests many creative ideas that might improve working conditions at the organization; (2) I often comes up with creative solutions to problems at work; (3) I suggests new ways of performing work tasks; (4) I am a good source of creative ideas. Cronbach’s alpha for this scale was 0.821.

Control Variables

Previous literature has shown that demographic variables and team characteristic variables may influence employee creativity, including age, gender, education, and working seniority. Thus, these variables are controlled in this study. Gender is measured as a dummy variable (1 = male, 2 = female). Age is divided into three levels (1 = under 30 years, 2 = 31–40 years, 3 = over 41 years). Education is divided into three levels (1 = junior college or below, 2 = bachelor’s degree, 3 = master’s degree or above). Working seniority is divided into three levels (1 = less than 5 years, 2 = 6–10 years, 3 = more than 11 years).

Reliability and Validity

The Cronbach’s alpha of digital leadership, job crafting, person-organization fit, individual creativity were 0.852, 0.871, 0.827, and 0.821, all of which were greater than the critical value of 0.7. The results of Cronbach’s alpha indicated that the questionnaire has good reliability. MPLUS8.0 was used to carry out the CFA. Compared with other competition models, the theoretical four-factor model (digital leadership, employee job crafting, person-organization fit, individual creativity) had a better fit to the data [χ2/df = 2.14, comparative fit index (CFI) = 0.902, Tucker–Lewis index (TLI) = 0.911, root mean squared error of approximation (RMSEA) = 0.057, standardized root mean square residual (SRMR) = 0.048] (see Table 1 ). The results of CFA showed that the theoretical four-factor model had satisfactory discriminant validity.

Table 1. Results of confirmatory factor analysis.

Common Method Variance

Although the anonymous measurement method and two-wave design in a survey were used to reduce common method variance (CMV) in the data collection. However, CMV may still occur because all variables were measured by individual self-evaluation. Thus, the Harman single-factor test was used to assess the existence of CMV. The results showed that the first factor solution in the exploratory factor analysis indicated only explained 38.29% (<50%) loading, which proved the absence of CMV ( Woszczynski and Whitman, 2004 ). Further, we conducted the unmeasured latent method factor, that all items were loaded on both this latent method factor and trait factors ( Podsakoff et al., 2003 ), to test CMV. A comparison of the latent method factor model (χ2/df = 1.797, CFI = 0.938, TLI = 0.934, RMSEA = 0.044, SRMR = 0.041) and the theoretical five-factor model (χ2/df = 1.794, CFI = 0.938, TLI = 0.934, RMSEA = 0.044, SRMR = 0.041) indicated no significantly changes in CFI ( Cheung and Rensvold, 2002 ). Thus, CMV should not be a severe problem in our study.

Descriptive Statistics and Correlation Analysis

Table 2 shows the results of descriptive statistics and correlation analysis. The results indicate that digital leadership is positively correlated to job crafting ( r = 0.610, p < 0.01), employee creativity ( r = 0.664, p < 0.01). Job craft is positively correlated to individual creativity ( r = 0.707, p < 0.01). The correlation between the mainly key variables provides the initial support to direct effect and indirect effect for our hypotheses.

Table 2. Means, standard deviations (SD), and correlations.

Hypotheses Test

This study uses hierarchical regression method to test the direct effect of digital leadership on employee job crafting and employee creativity, as well as the direct effect of employee job crafting on employee creativity; Bootstrapping method was used to test the mediating role of employee job crafting between digital leadership and employee creativity, and the moderated mediating effect.

Hierarchical regression results are shown in Table 3 . Hypothesis 1 proposed that digital leadership is positively associated with employee job crafting. As show in Table 3 , after controlling employees’ gender, age, education, position level, and seniority, digital leadership is positively and significantly related to employee job crafting (β = 0.617, p < 0.001, model 5). Hypothesis 1 is therefore supported. Digital leadership is positively and significantly related to employee job crafting (β = 0.584, p < 0.001, model 2), therefore, hypothesis 2 is supported. According to model 6, when digital leadership and employee job crafting are included in the regression equation at the same time to predict employee creativity, the regression coefficient of digital leadership and employee creativity is still significant and positive (β = 0.345, p < 0.001, model 6) and less than that in model 5. At the same time, employee job crafting is positively and significantly related to employee creativity (β = 0.466, p < 0.001, model 6). Hypothesis 3 is supported. In addition, this study also adopts the bootstrapping method to test the mediating effect. Based on 5,000 repeated sampling tests, the results show that job crafting plays a significant mediating role between digital leadership and employee creativity. The indirect effect of “DL→JC→EC” is significant (β = 0.279, p < 0.001), and the 95% CI is [0.201, 0.374]. Thus, hypothesis 3 is further supported.

Table 3. Results of hierarchical regression.

We examine the moderating effect of person–organization fit between the relationship of digital leadership and employee job crafting. As shown in Table 3 , the interaction of digital leadership and person–organization fit is significantly and positively related to employee job crafting (β = 0.199, p < 0.001, model 3), indicating that person–organization fit positively moderates the relationship of digital leadership and employee job crafting. According to the suggestions of Aiken et al. (1991) , this study further inspected the moderating effect by testing the simple slopes at high and low levels of person–organization fit, and the moderating effect diagram is drawn according to the regression coefficient ( Figure 2 ).

Figure 2. Moderating effect of person-organization fit on the relationship of digital leadership and employee job crafting.

For the moderated mediating effect test, a “mediating effect difference test” is used. By adding or subtracting one SD from the mean value of person-organization fit, the conditional mediating effects of employee job crafting under high and low person-organization fit are formed and compared for significance at different levels. If the CI excludes zero, the mediated mediating effect is significant. Table 4 shows the results. The model of digital leadership influencing employee creativity via employee job crafting shows that at low levels of person-organization fit, the mediating effect of job crafting is not significant (β = 0.101, p < 0.055, the CI is [0.012, 0.221], excluding zero). At high levels of person-organization fit, the mediating effect of employee job crafting is significant (β = 0.266, p < 0.001, the CI is [0.175, 0.387], excluding zero). The two groups show significant differences (β = 0.101, p < 0.05, the CI was [0.029, 0.282], excluding zero). These results show that the indirect effect between digital leadership and employee creativity is significantly greater than that of low person-organization fit. Thus, Hypothesis 5 is confirmed.

Table 4. Results of moderated mediating effect test (DL→JC→EC).

The past few years have witnessed growing academic interest in digital leadership (e.g., El Sawy et al., 2016 ; Larjovuori et al., 2016 ; Gierlich-Joas et al., 2020 ; Klein, 2020 ; Bresciani et al., 2021 ; Claassen et al., 2021 ; de Araujo et al., 2021 ), but few studies have focused on the relationship between digital leadership and employee creativity. Based on the job demands–resources model and person–organization fit theory, this study examines the relationship between digital leadership and employee creativity. The results of the empirical study support the proposed research model, and the main findings are as follows:

First, digital leadership is positively related to employee creativity. The more digital leadership shown by the leader, the more effective it is in stimulating employee creativity. This findings agree with previous researches holding that digital leadership plays an important role in promoting employee creativity ( Wasono and Furinto, 2018 ; Mihardjo et al., 2019 ).

Second, employee job crafting mediates the relationship between digital leadership and employee creativity. When enterprise leaders show digital leadership, job crafting of employees improves, stimulating their creativity. On the one hand, digital technology will improve the flexibility of the organization and the utilization of resources to some extent by empowerment ( Abbasi et al., 2020 ). On the other hand, digital technology has changed the traditional way of work ( Gilson et al., 2015 ). Therefore, employees will make job crafting to enable their abilities to fit their jobs, and then lead to enhance their creativity.

Third, person-organization fit positively moderates the relationship between digital leadership and job crafting. Person–organization fit theory posits that organizations have characteristics that have the potential to be congruent with characteristics of individuals and that individuals’ attitudes and behaviors will be influenced by the degree of congruence or “fit” between individuals and organizations ( Argyris, 1957 ; Pervin, 1989 ). Compared with low person-organization fit, the positive relationship between digital leadership and employee job crafting is stronger under high person-organization fit. Furthermore, person-organization fit positively moderate the indirect effect of digital leadership on employee creativity through employee job crafting.

Theoretical Contributions

First, this study examined the relationship between digital leadership and employee creativity. Leadership has always been regarded as a key antecedent variable to predict organizational and individual behavior. Previous studies have explored the impact of different leaders on creativity. For example, in a recent meta-analysis, 13 leadership types (transformational, transactional, ethical, humble, leader-member exchange, benevolent, authoritarian, entrepreneurial, authentic, servant, empowering, supportive, and destructive) were examined using data from 266 studies ( Lee et al., 2020 ). The results show that almost all those 13 leadership types are modestly correlated with employee creativity or employee innovation behavior. This findings provides some enlightenment for our research. In the digital economy era, digital technology has significantly changed our workplace and the way we do business. Accordingly, a large number of office applications are beginning to emerge and were adopted by organizations. With the help of these applications, leaders can establish remote workplaces and virtual teams to complete tasks by independence from a given time and place as well as changing work demands in general ( Gilson et al., 2015 ). Moreover, the emergence of WeCom, DingTalk, and E-mail increasingly simplifies the team’s communication and knowledge sharing among employees, and promotes the autonomy, flexibility, and creativity of the team. But for leaders, how to manage decentralized employees and promote employees’ creativity is very important. Few studies have focused on digital leadership as a key antecedent to predict employee creativity. This study is a step toward filling this gap by exploring the relationship between digital leadership and employee creativity. The results show that digital leadership does improve employees’ creativity, enriching the literature on antecedents of employee creativity.

Second, this study examined the mediating role of employee job crafting between digital leadership and employee creativity. Previous literature shows that leadership mostly indirectly affects employees’ creativity, rather than directly affecting employees’ creativity. Unfortunately, few studies have focused on the mediating mechanism of digital leadership on employees’ job crafting. Based on the job demands-resources model, we propose that employee job crafting will mediate the relationship between digital leadership and employee creativity. First, digital transformation will bring more opportunities for employees to obtain the information and resources which are needed to complete their tasks. Secondly, digital transformation puts forward new requirements for employees’ working methods. Employees need to balance the resources and demands in their work to better complete their work tasks and reduce their psychological insecurity. Therefore, in this study, we take employee job crafting as a mediator between digital leadership and employee creativity. The findings confirmed that digital leadership positively relate to employee creativity via employee job crafting. The findings supplements the literature on digital leadership by exploring how digital leadership affects employee creativity.

Third, this study extends the boundary conditions under which the mediating effect of employee job crafting between digital leadership and employee creativity are strengthen or weaken. To our knowledge, no existing study has explored the moderating mechanism of digital leadership on employees’ job crafting. According to person-organization fit theory, organizations have characteristics that have the potential to be congruent with characteristics of individuals, and individuals’ attitudes and behaviors will be influenced by the degree of congruence or “fit” between individuals and organizations ( Argyris, 1957 ; Pervin, 1989 ). Consequently, a better person-organization fit has been positively linked to organizational attraction and retention, recruiters’ selection decisions, and employees’ work-related attitudes and proactive actions. The findings show that person-organization fit can moderate the relationship between digital leadership and employees’ job crafting. When there is higher matching between individuals and organizations, individuals can better understand leaders’ behavior and show their support to their leaders. Therefore, individuals will turn this recognition into the impetus of work, and then improve personal enthusiasm and initiative to improve the behavior of job crafting. In this study, we also found that person-organization fit also moderates the mediating role of job crafting between digital leadership and employee creativity. The findings suggest that higher person-organization fit could strengthen the relationship between digital leadership and employee job crafting. It provides an answer to the question of when digital leadership affects employee job crafting, and deepens the understanding of the boundary conditions of digital leadership affecting employee creativity through employee job crafting.

Practical Implications

Digitalization has become an irresistible and irreversible trend of enterprises. The digital age is an era characterized by VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity). In China, with the booming development of a new wave of scientific and technological revolution and industrial reform, the new advantages of the digital economy are important in realizing quality, efficiency, and power reform, becoming essential to promoting high-quality integrated development. Therefore, the research on digital leadership has practical implications.

First, given the key role of digital leadership in promoting employee creativity, enterprises should pay more attention to and cultivate digital leadership. Digital leadership can provide vision and direction for enterprises, and lead them to a promising future. However, how to cultivate digital leaders can start from the following three aspects. First, effective procedures and standards can be established to select and promote leaders with digital capabilities. Second, organizations can carry out corresponding leadership training courses and development projects to advocate for leaders’ digital ability. Third, relevant assessment, reward, and punishment systems can be formulated to provide more support for digital leaders, to encourage the improvement of leaders’ digital ability.

Second, organizations should pay attention to the fit of organizational climate and employees’ values. The findings show that person–organization fit positively moderates the mediating effect of employee job crafting between digital leadership and employee creativity. Consequently, supplementary and complementary fit are the key issues on which organizations should focus. On the one hand, organizations need to attach importance to the needs of employees and help employees to make plans for their future development. This behavior enables employees to be more clear about their role positioning and then increase their organizational identity. On the other hand, organizations can create an inclusive atmosphere and encourage a diverse organizational culture. Given that individuals have different characteristics, an inclusive climate facilitates employees to create a collective perception of “we” within the organizations. As a result, the value fit between individuals and organizations will be improved.

Third, organizations should be aware of employees’ job crafting. Managing employee job crafting behaviors that contribute to personal and organizational goals is the of a manager. Therefore, managers could inform their subordinates about job crafting strategies and stimulate them to take job crafting behaviors when they desire more challenging work or less hindering job demands ( Petrou et al., 2016 ). In addition, managers need to pay more attention to the needs of their subordinates in relation to their resources, challenges, and hindrances ( Wingerden et al., 2015 ).

Limitations and Future Research

First, we collect data at different time points that will avoid the problem of CMV, and reflect the causal relationship of variables in time to some extent. However, all variables in this study are employee self-report, which may lead to common method variance. Therefore, future research can use multi-time points and multi-source methods to collect data. In addition, more rigorous experimental design (such as matched-pair study, longitudinal design study and experimental method) can be adopted.

Second, this study examines the relationship between digital leadership and employee creativity at the individual level. Future research can test the relationship between digital leadership and creativity from a multi-level perspective. In addition, this study is conducted in China which is regarded as high power distance culture. Thus, researchers can study the relationship in different countries to obtain more convincing and generalized results.

Third, by integrating the demands-resources model and person-organization fit theory, this study examine the mediating role of employee job crafting between digital leadership and employee creativity, and the moderating role of person-organization fit between digital leadership and employees’ job crafting. Future research can explore the boundary between digital leadership and creativity based on different perspectives and theories.

Data Availability Statement

The raw data supporting the conclusions of this article will be made available by the authors, without undue reservation.

Ethics Statement

As protection of all participants, all subjects read informed consent before participating in this study and voluntarily made their decision to complete surveys. The protocol was approved by an institutional review board in Xiangtan University of China.

Author Contributions

JZ developed the theoretical model, collected the data, and wrote the manuscript. BZ collected the data, analyzed the data, and participated in the manuscript writing. QC participated in the manuscript writing. MX participated in revising the manuscript. All authors contributed to the article and approved the submitted version.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

Publisher’s Note

All claims expressed in this article are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of their affiliated organizations, or those of the publisher, the editors and the reviewers. Any product that may be evaluated in this article, or claim that may be made by its manufacturer, is not guaranteed or endorsed by the publisher.

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Keywords : digital leadership, employee job crafting, person-organization fit, employee creativity, moderated mediating model

Citation: Zhu J, Zhang B, Xie M and Cao Q (2022) Digital Leadership and Employee Creativity: The Role of Employee Job Crafting and Person-Organization Fit. Front. Psychol. 13:827057. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2022.827057

Received: 01 December 2021; Accepted: 07 April 2022; Published: 09 May 2022.

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Copyright © 2022 Zhu, Zhang, Xie and Cao. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY) . The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

*Correspondence: Qiuju Cao, [email protected]

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Persson, Jesper, and Karahan Manas. "Towards the new normal : Digital transformation through digital leadership and digital transformation strategies." Thesis, Linnéuniversitetet, Institutionen för organisation och entreprenörskap (OE), 2021.

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Weisman, Robert. "A Leadership Approach to Successful Digital Transformation Using Enterprise Architecture." Thesis, Université d'Ottawa / University of Ottawa, 2019.

Krumenauer, Kay L. "A brief history of the formative years of the recreation discipline at the University of Wisconsin - La Crosse, 1944-1968." Connect to Internet resource, 1986.

Pedrosa, Ricardo Jorge Serra Sapateiro Pinto. "As características da liderança na era digital." Master's thesis, Instituto Superior de Economia e Gestão, 2019.

Kieser, Heinrich. "The influence of digital leadership, innovation and organisational learning on the digital maturity of an organisation." Diss., University of Pretoria, 2017.

Pillay, Andrea Anthea. "Understanding digital leadership competencies to enhance collaboration in South African Banks." Diss., University of Pretoria, 2020.

Truter, Berdine. "Transformational leadership style : the relationship to companies that are digital leaders." Diss., University of Pretoria, 2017.

Moodley, Kenny. "Creating Leadership Efficacy Through Digital Media in the Electricity Supply Industry." ScholarWorks, 2017.

Cabellon, Edmund T. "Redefining Student Affairs Through Digital Technology| A Ten-Year Historiography of Digital Technology Use by Student Affairs Administrators." Thesis, Johnson & Wales University, 2016.

The student affairs profession is at a crossroads (Torres & Walbert, 2010) given digital technology’s growth and the academy’s administrative expansion (Bowen, 2013). Student affairs administrators must simultaneously respond to digital technology’s implications in students’ lives (Kirschner & Karpinski, 2010) and to new state and federal compliance mandates connected to their expanding campus roles (Dungy & Gordon, 2010). Student affairs leaders acknowledge that these competing priorities demand more nimble responses (Manning, Kinzie, & Schuh, 2013; McClennan & Stringer, 2009). Significant research (Barr, McClennan, & Sandeen, 2014; Elkins, 2015; Dungy & Gordon, 2010; Junco, 2014; Kuk, 2012; Torres & Walbert, 2010) highlights that student affairs administrator‘s digital technology use can augment traditional in-person co-curricular student experiences; yet, minimal research exists on how student affairs administrators utilize digital technology.

This qualitative, historical, interpretive study analyzed student affairs administrators’ digital technology use from 2005 to 2015. Three research questions and three sub-questions framed the research design, which utilized three data sources. The researcher conducted (N=16) interviews with student affairs professionals and educators. Elite interviews (N=5) were conducted with some of the earlier student affairs digital technology adopters, while (N=11) key informant interviews were conducted with administrators who started their professional careers in 2005. (N=206) documents, including conference presentations and publications, were collected through the Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education (NASPA) and College Student Educators International (ACPA)’s websites. Data were analyzed in-case and across cases to highlight overall themes and a progressive timeline of how student affairs professionals used digital technology throughout their work. Using the futurology lens, the researcher envisioned how student affairs should use technology over the next ten years.

Analysis revealed that since 2005, student affairs administrators utilized digital technology to build capacity in their campus work, augment existing engagement efforts with students, faculty, and staff, and inspire change within and outside of their institution. Additionally, a historic timeline described how NASPA and ACPA provided limited, yet progressive, digital technology professional development education.

Student affairs administrators, professional organizations, and academy leaders leading digital technology implementation efforts might utilize the researcher’s recommendations as a starting point to catalyze the academy’s ongoing evolution.

Arnold, Deborah. "Supporting leadership development in European Universities: a mixed methods study of digital education leadership literacies for higher education." Doctoral thesis, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, 2022.

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Chebib, Louay. "Transforming the digital textbook| A modified Delphi study." Thesis, University of Phoenix, 2015.

Digital textbooks continue to hold the potential to revolutionize the dissemination of knowledge to anyone, anywhere. The understanding needed to reach a new digital paradigm includes tools that are consistent with the needs of a new generation of educators and students. This qualitative modified Delphi study provides a foundation that defines the function, structure, and role of the textbook in education. The textbook is defined as a basic educational resource that provides definitive knowledge, defines and bounds the scope of discussion and learning, and helps assure that the stated learning goals are met. A textbook is an educational resource and may contain other resources. As such, the textbook functions as an educational workspace; digital textbooks need to function as the principal resource in an online or interactive educational workspace that supports a mix of materials, including and regardless of multiple media formats. As is the role of the best technology, a fully functional digital textbook seamlessly encapsulates the educational materials and resources needed by the specific course. The consideration of linear and nonlinear study functions in terms of existing devices and interfaces played a critical role in understanding textbooks. Current PDF-based digital textbooks do not meet students’ needs. A list of functional considerations, that need to be part of the next generation of digital textbooks, is included in this study. Students need to be able to tailor the interface to best suit their individual preferences. The importance of reducing costs in the marketplace will ultimately decide which technologies will succeed.

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Latif, Natasha, and Vladislava Shevyakova. "Leadership brings innovation through digitalization : A study on how leaders contribute to digital innovations." Thesis, Linnéuniversitetet, Institutionen för organisation och entreprenörskap (OE), 2021.

Gerald, Shameka Nicole. "Measuring Principals' Technology Leadership and Principals' Behaviors: A Quantitative Study." Diss., Virginia Tech, 2020.

Garay, Emiliano, and Emil Berg. "“Detta är bara början på det digitala ledarskapet” : En fallstudie om hur ledarskapet i en offentlig verksamhet har utspelats under pandemin 2021." Thesis, Malmö universitet, Fakulteten för teknik och samhälle (TS), 2021.

Carlsson, John, and Richard Johansson. "Digital förändring i byggbranschen : En studie av vilka ledarskapsbeteenden chefer i byggbranschen besitter och hur dessa påverkar digitalt förändringsarbete." Thesis, Högskolan i Halmstad, Akademin för ekonomi, teknik och naturvetenskap, 2018.

Robertson, Laura, and Chantal Jurek. "Digital Interactive Notebooks in Science." Digital Commons @ East Tennessee State University, 2018.

Arpin, Rachel Ann. "The Effectiveness of Digital Escape Rooms to Deliver Leadership Training: A Mixed-Methods Study." Franklin University / OhioLINK, 2021.

Moore, Kelly Ann. "Teachers' Perceptions of Principal Digital Leadership Behaviors that Impact Technology Use in the Classroom." Thesis, Dallas Baptist University, 2018.

Teachers face many barriers regarding technology integration and depend on the campus principal to meet their technology needs. The principalship has shifted from instructional leader to digital instructional leader. The purpose of the current qualitative research study was to investigate teachers’ perceptions of principal digital leadership behaviors that impact technology use in the classroom. In this qualitative study, 24 teachers who teach reading, English language arts, and/or math were interviewed. The data from the interviews was collected and analyzed to identify themes and patterns using NVivio 11 Pro, a software program for analyzing qualitative data. The researcher analyzed and coded the data as trends and patterns were revealed in the teachers’ perceptions of principal digital leadership behaviors that impact technology use in the classroom. The data indicated there are several principal digital leadership behaviors teachers perceive impact technology use in the classroom. However, there were three principal digital leadership behaviors teachers perceived to have the greatest impact on technology use in the classroom: principal-led hands-on technology training opportunities, principal attitude towards technology and technology integration, and principal-led technology support.

Monterosa, Vanessa M. "Digital Citizenship District-Wide| Examining the Organizational Evolution of an Initiative." Thesis, California State University, Long Beach, 2017.

District leaders play a pivotal role in shaping federally-mandated policies that impact how digital citizenship curriculum is developed and implemented in schools. Yet, for many school leaders, teaching about digital participation may appear as a daunting and unfamiliar practice. In fact, most educators do not participate in digital communities, in contrast to the large number of youth who do. Over 1,200 district administrators from across the nation reported that they ban collaborative digital spaces such as social media in the classroom due to safety, privacy, and classroom management concerns. Yet, emerging research demonstrates that when students are given a structured opportunity to experience digital engagement in productive and constructive ways, students become producers rather than consumers of content and are able to develop an understanding of their digital participation in relation to their participation in society.

For educators who want to delve into digital citizenship, there currently exists a plethora of resources to support teachers in classroom-level integration of digital citizenship, but supports and resources for system-level, implementation remain limited. Moreover, these resources represent varied conceptualizations of digital citizenship, which results in inconsistent implementations of digital citizenship across classrooms, schools, and districts. Thus, how can district leaders such as superintendents, chief academic officers, or chief technology officers provide a cohesive and comprehensive digital citizenship program when the very conceptualization of digital citizenship remains unclear?

The purpose of this study was to utilize a case study approach to examine a large, urban school district’s approach to defining, developing, and maintaining a digital citizenship initiative focused on empowering students over the course of four years. By documenting and unpacking the elements of a district-wide approach to digital citizenship, this study provides a foundation for systemic practices and a common language aimed at informing organizational policy and practice. Despite the concept of digital citizenship being in its infancy, this study provides an organizational perspective of its conceptualization and implementation across a large system. Findings revealed that the district’s complex organizational efforts were rooted in political and symbolic decisions that facilitated the influence of digital citizenship across policy and program implementation efforts.

Lundström, Isabelle, and Julia Löfstedt. "Leading Teams in Times of Turmoil : The forced transition into the digital future." Thesis, Uppsala universitet, Företagsekonomiska institutionen, 2021.

Bertoncini, Guia Tina, and Maria Teresa Schmalz. "What’s on your mind? Understanding the Influence of Social Media on Authentic Leadership Dimensions and Education from the Millennials’ Perspective." Thesis, Linnéuniversitetet, Institutionen för organisation och entreprenörskap (OE), 2013.


Agent, Renee L. "Instructional Personnel Perceptions on Integrating Instructional Technology in K-12 Classrooms: A Case Study." Thesis, University of North Texas, 2019.

Guo, Jiabao, Emilio Ergovan, and Victor Seitl. "Remote work and leadership during the Covid-19 Pandemic : An exploratory study on how remote work is affecting leadership styles and employee motivation." Thesis, Jönköping University, IHH, Företagsekonomi, 2021.

Capinha, João, and Jacob Torehov. "Digital Transformation of Small Tech Reselling Firms : A Multiple Case Study in Portugal." Thesis, Högskolan i Jönköping, Internationella Handelshögskolan, 2019.

Mujawar, Saira Banu Sameer, and Muhammad Shafiq. "INFLUENCE OF DIGITALIZATION ON LEADERSHIP: THE CASE OF SANDVIK IN SWEDEN." Thesis, Högskolan i Gävle, Avdelningen för ekonomi, 2021.

Fox, Brian D. "The principal as an effective communicator| Increasing parental and community engagement through the use of digital communication and social media." Thesis, Northwest Nazarene University, 2016.

Considerable research provides clear evidence for the relationship between student achievement and the engagement of parents and community members with their local schools through meaningful involvement of parents, families, and members of the community. The purpose of this mixed-methods research study is to find evidence supporting building principals in communication efforts which engage students’ families thus contributing to student learning and achievement. The growing expectation that educational leaders use digital communications and social media to engage others has been met with some success by some building administrators and school district leaders.

This study focuses on the communication skills and behaviors of principals and the resulting effects on public perception and engagement. Qualitative, focus-group interviews were conducted with principals at both the elementary and secondary levels. Survey data was gathered from parents and community members measuring attitude and perspective. Results suggest effective principals are aware of the impact of digital communications and social media and are becoming more strategic in their use of such tools. Participants report increased involvement in school activities as a result of their efforts. Survey results indicate most parents and community members (83%) rank their local school most favorably. Principals effectively using digital communications and social media meaningfully engage a variety of parents and community members knowing their involvement can lead to improved student achievement.

Atwell, David Christopher. "Digital edification| An analysis of technology readiness and concept of ability in the school district of Palm Beach County K-12 school leaders." Thesis, Florida Atlantic University, 2016.

The purpose of this research study was to determine K-12 school leaders’ concepts of ability and technology readiness. The Theories of Intelligence Scale (TIS) was used to analyze concepts of ability and the Technology Readiness Index (TRI) 2.0 was used to analyze the technology readiness of K-12 school leaders. Data from the two instruments were used to determine if there was any relationship between K-12 school leaders’ concept of ability and technology readiness. This analysis filled a blank spot in the research contributing to the literature on leadership, Mindset Theory (Dweck, 2006; Dweck, Chiu, & Hong, 1995), and Technology Readiness (Lin & Hsieh, 2012; Parasuraman, 2000). Furthermore it helped to determine the state of K-12 school leaders’ status as 21st century leaders.

The sample consisted of the school leaders of School District of Palm Beach County (SDPBC). This included 158 principals from 104 elementary, 31 middle, and 23 high schools. The researcher was a school district employee and therefore had access to the participants.

Each of the four null hypotheses were rejected as SDPBC school leaders scored significantly higher on the TIS (p<.05) and TRI 2.0 (p<.01), there was a significant (p<.0125) positive relationship between TIS and the TRI 2.0, and that relationship was affected (p<.05) by gender, race, and experience.

Penton, Sanna, and Felicia Pettersson. "Factors Affecting Managerial Willingness to Change : A Case Study on Change Management When Implementing New Digital Technology." Thesis, KTH, Skolan för industriell teknik och management (ITM), 2019.

Nilsson, Jonas, and Sofia Persson. "Ledarskap i en kreativ miljö : En fallstudie av Acne Digital." Thesis, University of Kalmar, School of Communication and Design, 2009.

Introduction: Today creativity is a very crucial part in many organizations. Media companiesneed to be creative in order to satisfy customers and therefore there's a need to constantlydevelop the products and services as the competition gets harder and the demandsincreases. The leadership has an important role when it comes to motivating the creativityamong employees.

Purpose: The purpose of this thesis was to explore how the leadership looks like in anorganization where creativity is very important. We wanted to enhance our knowledge abouthow leadership affects the creative motivation.

Problem statement: How does leaders in an organization work with creativity? Whatmethods are used by the leader in order to motivate the creativity in the organization?How does the leadership affect the creativity?

Approach: We have done a case study of Acne Digital with a qualitative approach for thisthesis. We've conducted five interviews at Acne Digital and a small observation.

Conclusions: Our conclusions are that Acne Digital is a successful company regardingmanagement of creativity. The leadership has a very important role when it comes tomotivating the creativity in different manners. Our thesis shows that participation andoperating freedom are factors among others that are important for creative motivation.

Week, Sandra McElrath. "An ecological study of instructor views of free use multitasking with digital devices in the classroom." Thesis, University of Nevada, Reno, 2016.

University instructors experience continual technological change that affects their classroom teaching and their relationships with students. Few studies have been conducted regarding instructor views about student off-task multitasking during class. This study used a qualitative design with a phenomenological approach to discover meaning that instructors attribute to the challenges they encounter in dealing with student information and communications device use in the university classroom. Bronfenbenner’s (1990) ecological systems theory was used as a lens to organize and bring understanding to data collected from participant interviews, classroom observation, and syllabus inspection. The design of the study was different than any studies found to date as it triangulated instructor interviews with syllabi and observational data. Twelve participants who teach freshman-and sophomore-level core curriculum classes from a western university were included in the study. Information accumulated in this study supported some of the current research, but was in direct opposition to other research. The findings provide practical recommendations and many new opportunities for future research.

Janssen, Marike Susan, and Jonas Merk. "How Digital Transformation Changes Work Design : A Butterfly Emerging from its Chrysalis?" Thesis, Linnéuniversitetet, Institutionen för organisation och entreprenörskap (OE), 2019.

Ahlquist, Josie. "Developing Digital Student Leaders| A Mixed Methods Study of Student Leadership, Identity, and Decision Making on Social Media." Thesis, California Lutheran University, 2015.

Social media tools permeate the college student experience (Junco, 2014), including for those students who hold leadership positions on campus. The purpose of this study was to document the experiences and online behaviors of 40 junior and senior student leaders on digital communication tools. The study was conducted at two institutions in the western United States. Three research questions guided the sequential exploratory mixed methods study connecting student leadership, the presentation of identity, and decision-making with social media use. The study involved a three phase mixed methods analysis of focus group interviews and 2,220 social media posts.

Five major findings surfaced, including (a) social media impact starting in K-12 (b) college student leaders’ navigation of social media (c) presentation of digital identity (d) the beginning of leadership presence and possibilities and (e) significance of social media guidance in college. These findings suggest college student educators should implement holistic digital leadership education. Initiatives should begin early, prior to student enrollment in higher education, focusing on identity expression, positive possibilities-based perspectives, with a focus on social media’s potential impact on student groups, social communities, and social change. Findings from this study can mobilize higher education professionals, student peers, and parents to become digital educators, providing tools for students to implement in their digital practices.

Gustafsson, Emma, and Felicia Mattsson. "Crisis Management : A qualitative study about the difference between the dynamic capabilities of born-digital and non-digital companies during DSC." Thesis, Luleå tekniska universitet, Institutionen för ekonomi, teknik, konst och samhälle, 2021.

Montgomery, Matthew L. "Education Vision in the 21st Century: A Quantitative Study of the Effect of Superintendent Vision on Digital Learning." Kent State University / OhioLINK, 2020.

Tsolias, Panagiotis, and Adelina Zilkiqi. "Leaders Perception of Virtual communication : -leadership and communication mediated through technology." Thesis, Linnéuniversitetet, Institutionen för organisation och entreprenörskap (OE), 2020.

Stimus, Mirela Camelia. "How Presidents Can Become "Hip" by Using High Definition Metaphors Strategic Communication of Leadership in a Digital Age." Scholar Commons, 2016.

Fors, Emelie, and Evelina Lundberg. "Do as I do! : A single case study investigating leadership within a successful e-commerce company with a Customer Experience focus." Thesis, Linnéuniversitetet, Institutionen för marknadsföring (MF), 2021.

Alexandersson, Sara, and Carolina Jansson. "A Human Touch in A Digitalized Business World : A Qualitative Study of How the Digital Transformation in Business Impacts the Emotional Interactions Between Leaders and Followers." Thesis, Linnéuniversitetet, Institutionen för organisation och entreprenörskap (OE), 2021.

Ekström, Emma, and Maria Höglund. "” …det är viktigt att sätta laget före jaget ” : En kvalitativ studie om enhetschefers uppfattning av ledarskap på distans." Thesis, Högskolan Dalarna, Institutionen för kultur och samhälle, 2021.

Rodman, Ellen, and Julia Swahn. "Det digitala arbetsmötet : En kartläggning av dess möjligheter, utmaningar och hur mötesledarskapet ska anpassas." Thesis, Linköpings universitet, Institutionen för ekonomisk och industriell utveckling, 2020.

Cumberbatch, Iris E. "Exploring the Effectiveness of Social and Digital Media Communications on Organization-Public Relationship Building with Employees." Antioch University / OhioLINK, 2019.

Garipova, Dinara, and Allis Lilja. "“vi ställer inte in, utan vi ställer om” -En kvalitativ studie om ledarskap och digitalisering inom socialtjänsten till följd av covid-19." Thesis, Örebro universitet, Institutionen för humaniora, utbildnings- och samhällsvetenskap, 2020.

Haffke, Ingmar [Verfasser], Alexander [Akademischer Betreuer] Benlian, and Peter [Akademischer Betreuer] Buxmann. "The Implications of Digital Business Transformation for Corporate Leadership, the IT Function, and Business-IT Alignment / Ingmar Haffke ; Alexander Benlian, Peter Buxmann." Darmstadt : Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek Darmstadt, 2017.

Lacaz, Carlos Eduardo Martins. "Contribuições para a construção de um modelo biossocial de liderança: testosterona, relação digital e lócus de controle." Universidade de São Paulo, 2010.

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  1. PPT

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  3. (PDF) Digital Leadership

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  4. Digital Leadership Program

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  6. Digital Leadership by Robert Leneway

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  1. National Webinar “Art of Writing a Successful Research Proposal for Funding Agencies”

  2. Digital Leadership Video

  3. Thesis Video Presentation

  4. Be Confident In Your Overall Thesis

  5. 2023 Master of Fine Arts: Thesis Presentations

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  1. A systematic review and framework for digital leadership research

    A digital leadership maturity framework is proposed to address gaps in literature. Digital leadership in higher education is a sub-field of research that rapidly evolved from e-leadership studies. The practice of effective digital leadership in higher education is urgently needed to keep up with changing demands and opportunities.

  2. Digital Leadership: A Systematic Conceptual Literature Review

    Digital Leadership is a leadership style that focuses on implementing digital transformation within an organization. It enables enterprises to digitize their work environments and learning...

  3. (PDF) Digital Leadership

    Abstract Leadership is an important quality in organisations. Leadership is needed to introduce change and innovation. In our opinion, in architectural and design practices, the role of...

  4. From conventional to digital leadership: exploring digitalization of

    Abstract Purpose The leadership shift from conventional to digital comes from the compulsory digitalization of the workplace because the technological progress provides the opportunity of doing work remotely, and this is a great advantage of reducing costs that stem from the offline workplace.

  5. Impact of Leadership on Digital Transformation

    The purpose of this study is to identify the role of digital leadership and the framework of digital maturity in the context of the digital transformation of a company. Today, the term "digital transformation" is increasingly used when talking about the management and leadership function. The aim of this paper is to define the terms "digital transformation", "level of digital ...

  6. PDF A Leadership Approach to Successful Digital Transformation Using

    A Leadership Approach to Successful Digital Transformation Using Enterprise Architecture Robert Weisman A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Ph.D. in Electronic Business University of Ottawa Ottawa, Ontario, Canada December 2019

  7. Importance of Digital Leadership in the Era of Digitalization

    I have focused on providing qualitative research on the subject through a literature review to support the thesis of this creative component. The research provided an overview of what digitalization is, what digital leadership is, why digital leadership is important in current times and for the future, what it means to be a digital leader, and ...

  8. PDF The Development and Evolution of Digital Leadership: A Bibliometric

    1. Introduction Developments in the digital age have encouraged digitalization in every field, trig- gering various changes across almost all sectors [1] and forcing organizations of different sizes and from various sectors to transform themselves into digital workspaces [2].

  9. The Challenges of Digital Leadership—a Critical Analysis ...

    The following paper deals with the challenges of digital leadership in times of disruptive changes, using the example of the current crisis, the Covid-19 pandemic. ... As this study was executed as a part of the author's Master thesis and due to anonymity issues, these files are available exclusive for the examiners and the examination office ...

  10. (PDF) Digital Leadership: A Bibliometric Analysis

    Carla Curado ISEG - University of Lisbon Paulo Lopes Henriques University of Lisbon Abstract Digital disruption has changed organizations in an unprecedented way. The thriving field of digital...

  11. PDF Relationship between Digital Leadership and Digital Implementation in

    Digital leadership is a new construction of leadership that connects leaders with technology. In fact digital leadership is not only the use of technology, but also a strategic view of school culture that focuses on engagement and achievement (Askal, 2015). Creating a digital culture to support the needs of today's learners begins with the


    DIGITAL LEADERSHIP AND ORGANIZATION'S PERFORMANCE: THE MEDIATING ROLE OF INNOVATION CAPABILITY Authors: Doaa Husban Al-Balqa' Applied University Mohammad Almarshad Al-Balqa' Applied University...

  13. Digital Leadership: Competencies and Leadership Styles

    This term is associated with meanings such as leadership and leadership qualities. It is a modern leadership style that is characterized by a fast, agile, cross-hierarchical, and team-oriented way of leading. The terms New Leadership, Leadership 4.0, in the context of the term Industry 4.0, and Digital Leadership are often used synonymously.

  14. The Role of Leadership in a Digitalized World: A Review

    Main findings show leaders are key actors in the development of a digital culture: they need to create relationships with multiple and scattered stakeholders, and focus on enabling collaborative processes in complex settings, while attending to pressing ethical concerns.

  15. Frontiers

    Industry 4.0 has changed the paradigm in the business practice and business model, and digital technology has brought radical transformations to enterprises. To support this transformation, digital leaders are required to help enterprises transform and lead them to a more promising future. Based on job demands-resources model and person-organization fit theory, this study examines the ...

  16. Impact of Leadership on Digital Transformation

    Leadership for successful digitalization: A literature review on companies' internal and external aspects of digitalization Article May 2023 Florian Tagscherer Claus-Christian Carbon View Show...

  17. PDF Leadership in the digital age

    To achieve this, the study takes a two-folded approach by (1) outlining six characteristics of digitalisation and (2) analysing how these characteristics effect three contemporary forms of leadership: values-based, transformative and authentic leadership.

  18. PDF Digital Communication Technologies and Leadership Practice in Higher

    Running Head: DIGITAL COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGIES AND LEADERSHIP DIGITAL COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGIES AND LEADERSHIP PRACTICE IN HIGHER EDUCATION ... support and continuous encouragement throughout my years of study and writing this thesis. To my friends, and my best friend, Talha, for support and encouragement along the way.

  19. (PDF) The Effects of Digital Leadership and ESG Management on

    However, between digital leadership and organizational sustainability, the mediating effect of ESGM and organizational innovation was different, viz., Korea had partial mediating effects and China ...

  20. Thesis work

    Digital Leadership Master's Program focuses on developing students' understanding of how digitalization transforms organizations, industries and society. Contact Aleksandre Asatiani Programme Manager +46 766-18 36 30 +46 31-786 36 30 [email protected]

  21. Dissertations / Theses: 'Digital leadership'

    Published: 4 June 2021 Last updated: 30 January 2023 Create a spot-on reference in APA, MLA, Chicago, Harvard, and other styles Select a source type: Book Website Journal article Video (online) All types... Consult the top 50 dissertations / theses for your research on the topic 'Digital leadership.'


    Leadership is recognised as a central factor for success in many organisations already. Therefore, this thesis investigates the influence of digitalisation on leadership in the 21st century. The concepts of leading by empowerment, shared leadership as well as visionary leadership are researched on in detail.

  23. Developing digital leaders

    Leadership development continues to be a significant challenge for companies around the world, as the transition to the new digital organization creates even larger leadership gaps. High-performing leaders today need different skills and expertise than in generations past, yet most organizations have not moved rapidly enough to develop digital ...