Strong IT Leadership Should Include a Focus on Nontechnology Issues
Friday, October 12, 2007
Posted by: Mike Sebastian
As those of us in the profession know, information technology is an essential element of most businesses in the 21st century. In addition, there is little doubt that an energized IT team can have a direct impact on an organization's bottom line.
While there have been many studies of leadership and the creation of systems to motivate employees, flawed and counterproductive practices continue throughout many organizations. Clearly, IT is no exception. Leadership weaknesses of IT managers can have a significant impact on the productivity of a company, but what are these specific weaknesses, and what philosophies motivate the most effective IT leaders?
An AITP member of the Dallas chapter, Mike Sebastian, recently completed a study of IT leadership to determine whether perceptions of leadership practices differed between CIOs in companies identified by Fortune magazine as one of the 100 Best Companies to Work For (100BCW) in 2006 and CIOs of organizations that had not made the list. It is significant that two-thirds of the measure used to determine a company's ranking is based on employee responses.
To further place the research in context, it is important to note that companies on the Fortune list enjoy higher profitability, higher reported employee morale, and low employee turnover - an employer's dream!
The results of this study are important for several reasons. It is the only known comparison of its type, and the research resulted in an unusually high response rate. Forty-two of the 100BCW CIOs responded, and 49 responded from the non-BCW group. In research circles, this is a notably high response rate, suggesting strong interest in how respondents' perceived their practices compared with others. An executive summary of results was made available for this purpose.
During March and April of 2007, Sebastian received the results of the electronic survey participants had completed online, which yielded some interesting findings. While men still dominate the CIO role (88%), more 100 BCW IT leaders were from the liberal arts than the non-BCW group. Significantly different leadership perceptions and attitudes also existed between the two groups. CIOs in the 100BCW category indicated markedly different interest levels in tactical aspects of interpersonal and leadership-related topics, with the 100BCW interests skewing away from strictly technical reading matter and showing an inclination toward management processes and relational skills.
Sebastian concluded that CIOs must recognize and inculcate into their own practices a leadership style that is more people- than job-centered. Otherwise they may find their management style is counterproductive with today's employees. He also suggested that women may innately hold many of the attributes needed by today's CIOs.