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This column is part of Globe Careers' Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at

One of the most popular leadership topics today is the concept of Emotional Quotient (EQ); however, it's becoming old news.

An increasingly relevant attribute of leadership success is taking hold, something McKinsey & Company calls Digital Quotient (DQ). According to McKinsey, DQ measures the digital maturity of a company and its ability to be competitive in an era of technological disruption. At the executive leadership level, DQ refers to the level of digital aptitude of an individual and his or her ability to transform their organization through technological disruption by adopting new processes and workflows.

To quote media theorist Don Tapscott, "The industrial world has finally run out of gas." As such, The Digital Economy author makes a strong argument for talent management in the digital age. And that means increasing Digital Quotient at all levels of an organization. The new leadership imperative mandates embracing the digital economy.

So how can leaders raise their DQ? Start with understanding the who, what, where, when, why and how of digital leadership:

Why does it matter?

In a Globe and Mail article, Google Canada chief Sam Sebastian said that digital leaders outperform their competition in every industry. "They have higher revenues, productivity, better market valuations. They just do better," he said. This is a compelling reason to make increased digital competencies a priority for professional development. Not only do digital leaders outperform their peers, but a 2013 study revealed that sales teams who use social media to connect with buyers outperform their peers who don't by 78 per cent. Understanding why digital leadership matters is the first step to achieving it.

Who can benefit from a higher DQ?

In short, everyone. Individuals just starting (or hoping to advance) their careers would be well served to familiarize themselves with strategic use of social media networks. Having a higher DQ is not just a good idea for career advancement. It can be good for job security too. According to Richard Bhanap of Leading Edge Forum Research in Britain, "Abdicating digital to a CMO, CIO or even a newly appointed CDO [chief digital officer] will be the fastest route to executive obsolescence and accelerated retirement."

What does higher DQ comprise?

Communicating effectively on LinkedIn and Twitter is a basic leadership competency, and it requires getting uncomfortable. Beyond mastering the functionality of these networks, an enhanced Digital Quotient means abandoning our fear of sharing knowledge and perspectives. Leaders with high DQ are not just digitally savvy. They have the ability to implement the ideas derived from enhanced digital connectivity, what Don Tapscott refers to as networked intelligence.

When corporate leaders demonstrate high levels of DQ, they increase opportunities to become industry influencers and inspire behaviour change. With a little effort, this can be achieved in short order.

Within just a few months of joining Twitter, Lee Ferreira, vice-president thrombosis at LEO Pharma Canada, was globally recognized for creating awareness of thrombosis risks and prevention strategies in conjunction with World Thrombosis Day on Oct. 13, ranking second on the list of individual World Thrombosis Day influencers. Her colleague, Dr. Kathy Foris, vice-president scientific affairs, ranked fourth. Their collective decision to lead a therapeutic discussion on Twitter created enhanced brand recognition for LEO Pharma, and increased opportunities for collaborative partnerships within the healthcare industry.

Peter Aceto, CEO of Tangerine Bank, has also achieved worldwide recognition for his high DQ. His transparent leadership style on social media and commitment to inspiring innovation and the adoption of new processes and technologies has yielded tremendous results. These attributes influenced the acquisition of what was then ING Direct by Scotiabank in 2012 for $3.1-billion. In 2010, Mr. Aceto won the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Award for his contribution to Canada's leadership as a digital nation.

Where do we exercise our DQ?

Social media networks are a good starting point. If your audiences are on LinkedIn and Twitter, use these networks to engage them. And while you're there, let your audience know you're listening. Acknowledge and validate their concerns, and commit openly and transparently to fixing a problem to the best of your ability. Ask your professional networks to share their ideas, and work with them to create something new.

When should we do it?

Digital leadership is not a limited-time engagement. It's a commitment. Do a little bit each day. Focus on collaborating. Share the higher purpose of your work, praise your team members, thank your customers, listen to your stakeholders, and work towards better meeting their needs – and do so transparently on digital networks. Becoming a digital leader takes a little practice and some patience, but now is an excellent time to start.

How do we do it?

Acknowledge that times have changed and that the evolving communications "trends," as some perceive social media, are here to stay. Take the time necessary to become more fluent with the tools of modern communication and how they can empower you to take your business to the next level. Create a budget that will raise the DQ of your organization. Get professional help to inspire behaviour change in the C-Suite, and provide appropriate training.

We can't change what we refuse to acknowledge. Start by evaluating your level of Digital Quotient and make a commitment to improving it. Make sure your goal is not just to survive in a digital economy, but to thrive in it. "If you will it," writes Don Tapscott, "you can be a leader in the transformation."

Hilary Carter is the founder of InTune Communications.

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