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Leadership Skills for the IT Revolution

Throughout history there have been a variety of leaders. Some more inspiring than others, Alexander the Great, Mahatma Gandhi, George Washington to name a few. Like the varying leadership styles of the boy king who conquered most of the known western world, or the young lawyer who fought for the Indian freedom struggle against the colonial rule with non-violence and protest, or the foresight, vision and strategic planning of the founding father of the United States, leadership styles have evolved.

Thornton May, IT futurist, Speaker and Educator, writes about the ever changing state of leadership and what makes a “great” leader. May interviewed IT leaders at various stages in their careers to better understand the changing state of leadership. He concluded that contemporary leadership is perceived to be more community-focused today more than any other time in history.

In fact, annually American companies spend more than $160 billion on leadership training and education and nearly $72 billion recruiting leaders. “Global expenditures are three times bigger,” May writes. “The general consensus is that a) we need more leaders, and b) the leaders we have need a skills upgrade.”

To be successful, IT leaders need to identify and apply a subset of leadership traits relevant to the environment in which they find themselves. This means that when the environment changes, leaders have to change, not who they are, but how they lead, writes May.

The IT environment is changing, and so is the need for its leadership.

Historically, in revolutionary times, two kinds of leaders present themselves, according to May.

“The Alpha leader declares the status quo a disaster, claims to have the answer and starts giving orders. This style of leadership is sometimes termed “leading through dominance” including sought-for behaviors via one’s power and formal authority.”

The Delta leader acknowledges that things are not working as well as they should be and sets about asking fundamental questions designed to collaboratively get at the root cause of the problem. This style of leadership is sometimes termed “leading through prestige”, where behavior change is induced by displaying one’s knowledge and expertise.”

What kind of leader are you?