The Modern Leadership Paradox: High-Tech vs High-Touch
In the modern organization, life moves fast. High-impact leaders as well as their employees now have unparalleled access to technology in almost every scope of their professional lives. From using email and cellular messaging to keep colleagues well-informed to using SaaS platforms daily to optimize processes, technology use is a necessity for business success.
Technologies are designed and implemented in a professional environment to enhance efficiency and streamline strategies. In theory, high-tech practices should make the client’s experience with a business more positive and boost team morale through increased access to instant communication methods. A study from the MIT Center for Digital Business demonstrated that an increase in digital intensity can help businesses manage a higher volume of work with the same physical capacity. This includes driving 16% more revenue with both physical and human assets.
However, there are significant consequences when the majority of communication between team members occurring through a screen rather than face-to-face.
When technology is given more attention then leadership and team development, an interpersonal disconnect can create a spider-web effect of effects, such as a lack of trust and a decline in the health of the workplace culture.
In turn, best-in-class leaders are beginning to focus on “high-touch leadership”: the people-based and emotional intelligence skills that support a better team environment.
This paradox of “high-tech” versus “high-touch” leadership can be overcome by cultivating a balance between leveraging the benefits of technology and enhancing relationships with all team members through in-person interpersonal communication.
More High-Touch Leadership, Less High-Tech Dependance
New developments in professional software and technology seem to be available daily, with plenty of C-Suite professionals choosing to focus on new tech tools. Technology can be used to gain momentum in professional development and increase ROI. But to truly increase the human capital of an organization, leaders must focus on being the high-touch leaders that employees need for sustainable success.
Rick Conlow states that “Leaders that focus just on the new tech tools will continue to have employee productivity and engagement problems.” Companies and leaders who choose not to invest solely in the latest tech developments, but also in executive coaching sessions and leadership development programs, can engage with a broader scope of team members and drive returns. When these organizational managers and C-Suite leaders become aligned with “high-touch” leadership strategies, they may experience other benefits such as:
- Increased productivity
- Enhanced employee engagement
- Bettered teamwork
- A higher bottom-line
Balance Technology Use and Thrive as a High-Touch Leader
As discussed in our blog “How to Use Technology to Meaningfully Enhance Your Leadership,” impactful leadership and technology use can both be equal parts of an effective leadership strategy. Technological resources such as online instructional tools, industry-related podcasts, SaaS tools, and even wearable technological devices can help leaders enhance leadership capabilities.
However, integrating this technology use must be balanced with interpersonal development and face-to-face relationship building with colleagues and employees alike.
Embracing and utilizing new information can help develop skills needed to set the tone for positive, future-forward leadership and organizational success.
In America alone, 51% of the workforce reports that they’re not engaged, according to Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report, costing organizations between $450 and $550 billion annually. These numbers prove that there is plenty of room for increasing engagement through high-touch leadership in balance with necessary technology use. This leadership style can increase employee motivation and engagement through treating them as valuable assets and respected partners.
High touch leadership demonstrates that individual employees are what creates a successful company, not technology. When leaders place emphasis on creating professional environments where employees can thrive, technology use can be leveraged to aid productivity and skill development.
This leadership strategy highlights how leaders can enhance employee KSAs through interpersonal communication and one-on-one discussions.
High-touch leadership may require a significant time investment and an equal delegation of tasks equal to the competencies of varying employees, but can foster remarkable benefits for the leader, their team, and the business itself.
Emotional Intelligence and High-Touch Leadership
In an effective workplace, technology is viewed only as a tool; it is not the be-all, end-all of a balanced team. Rather, increasing emotional intelligence is a key factor in effective high-touch leadership. When a leader can be sensitive to the emotions of others and manage their own emotions efficiently, they can better support team members and provide superior coaching. This practice also helps high-touch leaders hire better, as the emotional intelligence of all employees is vital for a thriving organization.
High-touch leadership includes including appropriate interpersonal skills through daily tasks and practices such as:
- Communicating effectively, both on and offline
- Practicing active listening
- Making proactive decisions when problem-solving
- Easily adapting to unforeseen change
- Providing constructive and appropriate feedback
- Managing personal and professional stress gracefully
- Delegating tasks appropriately
To effectively manage the paradox of high-tech usage and high-touch leadership in a future-forward company, it’s up to leaders to find the appropriate balance between technology use and high-impact leadership.
When leaders choose to invest in enhancing HR strategies, developing positive leadership skills, and create one-on-one opportunities for team members to be open and share their thoughts, employees are inspired to be fully engaged and satisfied with their work.
To stay competitive in our fast-paced world of technologically-enhanced businesses, leaders must begin to emphasize high-touch leadership that builds a positive workplace culture and inspires employee growth. Based on our Balanced Leadership Framework, we provide people-based services that are custom-tailored to the unique needs of your company. Effective leadership is key to driving HR functions, accelerating effectiveness, and building high performing teams.
For 10 years, East Tenth Group has been helping leaders shift their mindset from high-tech to high-touch with the action-driven support, constructive feedback, and dedicated guidance needed to boldly confront what may be holding you back to help your business thrive moving forward.
How have you used high-touch leadership practices to move your team forward? We’d love to hear from you in the comments. For more information about our extensive services, take action now and subscribe to our newsletter, and connect with us on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.