What IT Leadership Look Like?
To succeed as an
IT leader, you need to develop
the business management skills.
A recent CIO.com list of Ones to Watch includes
folks, mostly directors and VPs, who appear headed for the CIO suite. More
than ever before, their skills go beyond the purely technical; they exhibit
vision, the ability to influence others and a knack for getting things done.
A wish list includes
11 traits of a true IT leader.
Some examples: fluency in both technology and the business, the ability to
work at tactical and strategic levels simultaneously, marketing competence,
consummate communication skills, and a readiness to stretch beyond core
Finding such people isn't easy. "They need to
be good at a lot of things," says Agnoli, awards judge and CIO of
Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Nicholson Graham. "They have to be able to delve from
the really high-level stuff all the way down to the minutiae, sometimes at
the same time. It's a very difficult skill set to find, so you want to hold
on to them."
There are some telltale signs that an IT leader
is – or should be – headed for the top. Leading companies recognized for
their rising-star status in the IT world, display three overarching
characteristics the wise CIO will watch out for. They have vision, often
solving business problems. They exhibit
influence, with superior communication skills and the ability to build
consensus. And they get things done, executing
enterprisewide projects successfully time and time again.
Vision is as a core
competency is the kind of trait CIOs just know when they see it. It comes in
many forms, from the ability to envision an executable plan to figuring out
how to enable a new business product. But the qualities that lead IT
approaches to solving business problems are easier to boil down. They
need a thorough understanding of the down-and-dirty details of both
technology capabilities and business needs, the flexibility to adjust to
changing conditions in either or both, and the ability to bring the two
together into a very high-level strategic
Influence. Of course, giving
doctors and nurses innovative new technology tools is one thing; getting
them to use these tools is quite another. That's where
influence comes in.
Often, CIOs must call upon a whole host of skills to get business buy-in
for, and usage of, IT-enabled change – from being willing to learn more
about what the business needs to
gaining the trust of key stakeholders to marketing big, enterprisewide
relationships with various (often very different) constituencies.
Execution. Vision and influence
are essential qualities for future CIOs. But without solid execution, great
ideas and successful marketing campaigns quickly fall apart. You've to stand
10 Key Project Leader Skills
It takes time though to truly judge whether an
IT leader is good at getting things done. "You have to look at the scope and
reach of what they're doing. It's one thing to do a successful project; it's
another thing to do it across the entire organization," says Agnoli. "You
also have to look at how successful they are. They need to build a track
record over time, not just one good project." To do that, IT leaders need to
be able to employ solid
project management practices, hire and manage the best employees to
execute those plans, and either get involved or
And though it sounds rather circular, it takes an IT leader who has
influence as well.
The Rise of the IT Architect
IT architects are in growing demand. They
cross-functionally excellent people who can "tie several silos of
expertise together," relate to business problems as well as technology, and
then sell their ideas upward and downward in the corporate hierarchy. The
position of IT architect has become increasingly important to the
ever-changing IT industry, and is one that established corporations and
start-ups are seeking.
"As IT positions become more specialized and
include increasingly detailed responsibilities, there's a need for someone
who can tie several silos of expertise together," says Al Volvano, a product
manager for Microsoft's Learning Group. "Enterprise architects aren't just
technology experts; they are leaders with broad IT knowledge, the savvy to
apply it to business problems and the
necessary to coordinate the people who will put their plans into action,"
says Bill Liguori, senior vice president and co-founder of the placement
firm Leadership Capital Group. 5