Quick fire on digital leadership from Facebook and Yoox Net-a-Porter HR heads

30 second read

We all want to know what two of the most powerful women in HR think about digital leadership. Facebook VP of international HR Fiona Mullan and Yoox Net-a-Porter Group’s chief people officer Deborah Lee share their thoughts

Sian Harrington

Fiona Mullen Facebook and Deborah Lee Yoox Net-a-Porter HR

What are the main challenges for digital leaders?

Deborah Lee (left): The big new leadership challenge is data and ethics. Data is giving us powerful insight but how should we use that data and how do we use it in a way that is morally right?

Fiona Mullan (right): Communication and transparency are big issues. Information travels so quickly and there is immediate engagement. How work gets done is no longer related to traditional organisational hierarchy. It’s up and down, left and right – it’s very messy. This pushes us as leaders.

Deborah Lee: We have just implemented Facebook Workplace but as leaders we cannot control content. The role of the leader now is facilitator, it requires letting go. The HR function can be seen as controlling and about policy and decision making but we need to stand back now.

Fiona Mullan: HR has come a long way when it comes to areas such as inclusion. It’s about the authentic self. When you walk into the physical door of the office you should be the same person as you were over the weekend. This comes right down to manager-to-employee level and employee-to-employee level.

Deborah Lee: Creating a culture of psychological safety is vital. This has a huge impact on how risk averse or risk taking an organisation is. Research in the US found contagiousness in risk taking. It is a cultural issue that can be architectured. But key to this is learning, it’s learning that matters. If you make a mistake what do you learn from it?

What are the three most important traits of a digital leader?

Fiona Mullan: Leaders who can build followship are vital in the digital age. Having a learning mindset. We need enlightened leaders who are constantly drawing from a diverse set of inputs. Humility is my other must-have trait.

Deborah Lee: Adaptability is key and with that comes resilience. And in the digital age there is too much we cannot know. So strong communication and listening skills are central to digital leadership.

Fiona Mullen and Deborah Lee were interviewed at UNLEASH18 in London, UK, on 21 March 2018
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