Whiteboard: How to Develop IT Leaders

Developing new leaders has taken a back seat to other IT issues for too long. Smart CIOs know that having talented leaders at all levels is necessary for an IT organization to be prepared to meet their enterprise’s ever-increasing technological and strategic demands. Yet many IT executives simply equate growing leaders with sending them off to a leadership training class or the leadership book listings at Amazon.com. Few companies run leadership programs at all, let alone for IT personnel: According to Meta Group, fewer than 15 percent of world-class Global 2000 firms have formal leadership development programs, and less than 2 percent have organizational development processes for developing the business skills of their technical staffs.

Books and conventional leadership programs aren’t sufficient for developing IT leaders, because leading in IT is different from leading a business unit: IT leaders face the dual pressures of understanding—at both a strategic and operational level—the business of the company and the business of IT. IT leaders need to guide and change the business while simultaneously serving it; they must challenge their fellow executives’ decisions when there are flawed assumptions about technology and information while they support their needs; and they must build a consensus when decisions need to be made about technology at the enterprise level. And while focused on the business, IT leaders have to be diligent in strengthening their own organization. They must adjust their style to fit their IT organization’s abilities and create an attractive environment for talented technologists.

No book or course, no matter how helpful, can prepare an individual for all this. Only a leadership development program that provides the right blend of experiences, mentoring and regular evaluation, as well as training, can enable companies to grow a steady supply of IT leaders. This whiteboard provides CIOs with both an approach and the tools to run such a program.

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