IT’s Greatest Skill Gap: Leadership

digital transformation

The rise of digital transformation and disruption has put a spotlight on IT’s need for leadership skills throughout the ranks. The need for organizations to address the void has increased

IT leadership has dramatically changed in the past five years and is expected to change more in the coming ten years. The role of an IT leader is moving from heading a team of technocrats to a more strategic decision maker for business. .

Digitalization has put a spotlight on IT skills, but CEOs are also demanding leadership skills from CIOs. According to Deloitte’s 2019 Global Human Capital Trends report, 80% of respondents rated leadership as a top priority. The report also mentioned that most of the executives feel that their organizations do not have the required leadership. Only 41% of the CIOs said that they are ready to meet their leadership requirements.

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PwC also found similar demand for leadership in the 2017 CEO Agenda report that talked about CEOs putting a premium on leadership, adaptability, problem solving, and innovation. It was observed that CEOs put these four skills at the top of their list, before STEM, risk management, and digital skills.

Experts believe that the need for leadership within the IT departments has become acute. Since technology has become essential for all business growth, IT professionals are heading more initiatives than before. The shift to more collaborative work processes moves CIOs into roles where they need to guide, advise, and influence, more than run technology.

Experts have observed the need for IT leadership at every tier of the organization chart is fast becoming a business imperative, as IT staff need some gravitation pull to their ideas to progress to action. The demand for leadership characteristics is not just at CIO and other top IT executives, but also throughout the IT department due to an increase in agile teams and DevOps where quick decision-making and consensus building are critical to success.

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It is important to note that leadership qualities were never a part of technology education for IT professionals. In expert opinion, people with tech training and tech backgrounds do not fit the stereotype of an unsocial and corporate-challenged tech nerd. By nature of self-selection into their field and the training they get, the people in high tech do not have the same training experiences like that of a management program maybe.

According to the 2018 McKinsey & Co Skill Shift: Automation and the Future of the Workforce report, there is a growing need for leadership skills. Elaborating further, the report says, technology design, advanced IT, and basic digital skills, as well as critical thinking, creativity and project management, are being considered as critical skills for the future.

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IT workers looking to become leaders must build communication, negotiating, and marketing skills to better shape decisions and discussions. There is a need for IT professionals to have the ability to motivate people, lead teams and be good at building relationships.

Enterprises have also started taking initiatives to train their IT staff with leadership programs and internal training. These initiatives provide participating employees with an opportunity to build their networks of IT executives that exposes them to new ideas and tech-driven solutions. Experts believe that such efforts keeps staff engaged, helps the company in retaining talent; while ensuring that they are ready to move up the IT ranks to meet the new challenges. It is crucial for companies to develop IT talent and cultivate more leaders. Experts opine that training investments will surely show their returns in the long run.

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Meeta Ramnani is the Senior Editor with OnDot Media. She writes about technologies including AI, IoT, Cloud, Big Data, Blockchain across various industries with a focus on Digital Transformation. An avid bike rider, Meeta, is a postgraduate from Indian Institute of Journalism and New Media (IIJNM) Bangalore, where her specialization was Business Journalism. She carries four years of experience in mainstream print media where she worked as a correspondent with The Times Group and Sakal Media Group in Pune.