ADAPTING TO THE NEW NORMAL : A Qualitative Study of Digital Leadership in Crisis

Detta är en Master-uppsats från Umeå universitet/Företagsekonomi; Umeå universitet/Företagsekonomi

Sammanfattning: With more than 5 million people sick and 300 thousand dead, the global economy has experienced an economic shock more severe than the financial crisis of 2008. The sudden emergence of COVID-19 as a global threat came at a time when a significant percentage of businesses are divided in their degree of digital maturity. The pandemic forced organizations to make digitalization and digital transformation a rapid strategic focus. One of the most important aspects of this transformation has been providing remote infrastructure that can support an entirely digital workforce. Besides this urgent need of digital technology, the situation has resulted in a need of leaders who might need very different competencies and behaviours than leaders needed a couple of years ago. The lack of literature on digital leadership in crisis and empirical research describing the impact of digital transformation on leadership called the authors for further exploration. The primary purpose of this thesis was to investigate the adaptation of managers to the rapid digitalization of their day to day assignments caused by the outbreak of COVID-19. In addition, the thesis also sought to explore how high digitalization and digital leadership could function as a vital part of building a crisis-resistant organization against future pandemics. To fulfil the purpose, the following research question was identified: How does a crisis affect digital leadership? The study was conducted through interviews with the management committee of one of the divisions at L’Oréal Group in the Nordics. The empirical findings of this study suggest that managers that lead their teams using digital tools require specific social and task-related skills in order to efficiently communicate with their team in times of crisis. In addition, the findings frame the COVID-19 pandemic as a driver of organizational change towards digitalization and digital transformation. It is concluded that organizations that have the necessary digital infrastructure, digitally skilled workforce and agile operations have and will be more prepared for similar types of events in the future. Correspondingly, this study provides further understanding of digital leadership by researching it in the context of crisis and by providing practical recommendations of how to establish a pandemic-proof business continuity model.

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