It’s imperative as leaders that we are willing to listen to what lies beneath the surface because they can take us down.

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“What is the biggest change you’ve seen in digital ministry and leadership?” asked a colleague recently.

INCREASED NOISE

Perhaps the greatest challenge facing you as a leader is the volume and noise. We are inundated with information; how can we stand out as a definitive voice? When it comes to leadership in digital maturity and technology, what I’ve discovered is there are so many specializations in these fields – marketing, branding, UX/UI, CX, tech stack, back end, front end, social media, analytics – to name a few.* To be good, you have to be able to pull all those things together to deliver something people will delight in using. Leaders used to be able to extend their influence by having some good insight, creating good content, getting a good blog going, paying attention to a few good feeds. It’s much harder to add value now.

In order to survive, people have erected filters. A four-inch screen is a crowded space to get someone’s attention. My best friend is a megachurch pastor and I can rarely get him to respond to a text from me. Think about a group of people you want to reach out to with digital media – a Facebook post, a video, a questionnaire, an invitation to a Bible study, or a blog that discusses meaningful issues of the day. To try to get into their world, their filters are really high.

Part of it is that people are overwhelmed. Like we all do, they turn off notifications, they ignore certain things, they unsubscribe. Earning a spot for attention is really difficult.

To be able to do that, we need to be addressing an issue that’s important with compelling content, have a tone of voice that’s current with the culture group you’re trying to talk to, in language that makes sense to them.

Graphically and visually, it has to be attractive, has to load on their device in a short amount of time, optimized for a mobile screen. If you’re a writer, to cultivate an audience you have to be mindful of those things.

Let’s say the pastor of a church communicates well. The church uses WordPress as a platform, but the three associate pastors blog on three other platforms. That will get them to a certain level of effectiveness. No one will come to them and say, “You need to be on the same platform,” because there are too many other more pressing issues, but it needs to happen if they want to make a collective impact.

To lead well in the digital space, you have to have someone thinking above the day-to-day tasks, pulling your digital assets together. When your team or institution does this you are becoming digitally mature. When people do it right, it’s a work of art. The user experience seems simple. People think, “This website is so easy; I can find what I want.” The easier it is to find what you want, there’s a disproportional amount of work behind those decisions. That’s what it takes to be noticed. That’s what it takes to be heard.

What helps you cut through the noise?

*UX/UI is User Experience/User Interface. CX stands for Customer Experience.

This post first appeared on Indigitous.org as part of an interview series on Digital Leadership.

The hardest thing about leadership is actually doing it.

It’s easy to talk about leadership. It’s easy to observe how and when others aren’t leading. Your inbox and social media feeds prove that it is much easier to blog about it, tweet (and retweet) about it, preach about it, publish books about it, convene a conference about it, or judge it.

But to lead well over time in ways that build the people and the institution in the process – that is an art. The creation of art requires courage, patience, inspiration, and diligence. Ultimately each true work of art must be released to the public where it will be experienced, evaluated, and critiqued.

How will the artist in you lead well today?