Unless you were born in the 1990s, you are most likely a ‘digital immigrant’ – someone whose ability to use a smartphone, tablet or interact via social media networks does not come as naturally as it does for digital natives. But as with any immigrant in a foreign culture, there are new languages, attitudes and mindsets that can be learned, helping ease your transition into this new environment.

I recently read Erik Qualman’s Digital Leader: 5 Simple Keys to Success and Influence. Qualman outlines 5 habits to be a digital leader. The habits are overwhelming, but will bring exciting results if we practice them. Qualman says that even he does his best to adhere to the principles he’s laid out, but that even he is a long way from following them consistently. One quote that sums up this sentiment, and brings hope to the reader says, “Once you accept the fact that you aren’t going to get every thing done, then you can better address what should get done.”

The five habits of digital leadership:

SIMPLE: success is the result of simplification and focus

TRUE: be true to your passion

ACT: nothing happens without action – take the first step

MAP: goals and vision are needed to get where you want to be

PEOPLE: success doesn’t happen alone

These habits form the acronym STAMP because they create a personal stamp – on both your life and others’ lives. Erik Qualman’s tips and examples of how real people implement these habits are primarily digital ones (social media, email, etc.) but all have components that people have followed for centuries as leaders.

Focus to make improvements

How many times have we waited to do something because there were so many parts and we needed to have them all ready to go at once? For example, a company couldn’t put up a Facebook page until it was ready to go with a Twitter account, LinkedIn page, and blog. It takes a long time to do all of those (plus the website and numerous other digital presences) at the same time, and unfortunately they usually are not all done well because resources are spread too thin. The digital habit of “Simple” tells us that we should do only one or two and do it well.  So what we need to do is to figure out how to consolidate or do away with at least 3 of the 5 main digital presences.


In the past, leaders had to rely on employees and researchers to find out what’s going on. Now within the digital space, there are all kinds of direct information at hand whenever you need it. It is important to listen to this information and find out what is truly happening. Although it is tempting to simply pay attention to what catches your ear, this isn’t enough. By listening to all different voices in the channel you’re in, you can understand the big picture and make communication more effective.


Sharing has become very informal in the digital age. To embrace digital leadership you must be able to share in an unstructured, informal, yet intentional way. When you share information with someone, you are expressing what is important to you. It can become the foundation of a relationship since you are trusting that this person might find your perspective interesting. The information you share should come from an authentic point of view, one that is worth sharing. If you filter what you say too much, you can lose the emotional and unique outlook people are looking for. You want whatever you’re sharing to be seen and heard by as many people as possible. Remember, there is always the potential to be working for the people in your audience. What do you think will help them reach their highest potential?


This concept goes hand in hand with the importance of sharing. Digital leadership is all about sharing content that engages your audience. Share stories that will help the audience to improve personally or professionally, and align your goals with theirs. Should your follower be listening to every detail you share to understand a concept? Or do you want to create a more relaxed atmosphere that inspires collaboration? If you have a specific goal to reach, then the detailed approach will probably be more successful. If you are looking for ideas and want the problem to find its own course, then take it more freely.

To be a digital leader, you must start to think like one. You must be visible, be heard, and be known. It takes visionary thinking to move past the glitzy tools and find the most successful course for your business.