CIO Habitat: The Trouble with Next-Generation IT Leaders

Libraries overflow with books on leadership. A content analysis of this literature reveals that IT executives are rarely featured there.

Best-selling writers, in fact, seem to target IT folks as readers of leadership books, not as exemplars worthy of appearing in their pages. Business school curricula focusing on leadership rarely include case studies of IT practitioners. Often the IT case is used to demonstrate what not to do.

Even worse, IT executives themselves seem to lack much faith in the capabilities of the generation of leaders coming up the ranks behind them. In our ongoing CIO Habitat research (see "Methodology") at the IT Leadership Academy, we recently surveyed some 300 executives via e-mail on this topic. More than 80% of respondents perceived the next generation of IT executives as lacking the skills needed to lead IT in the future. This has several CIOs we talked with scared witless.

Will the IT leaders of the future be able to make tough technology and business decisions? The majority of our respondents saw them as less capable than the current generation; only 11% thought the up-and-comers would do a better job. Yet despite this pessimistic outlook, leadership is an eminently improvable skill.

This was first published in April 2005

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