How to Launch a Leader

Von Todd Datz

Randy Mott, the CIO at DellDell, attributes part of the problem to the fact that IT is still toddling around in diapers, relatively speaking. "The issue starts with how companies perceive their IT organizations," he says. "With the function being relatively young as an industry, most companies view the CIO as the single source for decision making and strategy development, so the second tier of IT leadership doesn't always get the exposure necessary to develop their leadership skills." Alles zu Dell auf

The end result for many IT departments: managerial ranks chock-full of people who are highly qualified technology specialists but underqualified motivators and leaders of people. IT staff notice this and resent it, according to a recent CIO survey. A whopping 93 percent said their CIOs don't spend enough time developing future IT leaders.

In a 10-person IT department, that may not matter. In a 100- or1,000-person staff, a lack of leaders can put a major hurt on efforts to weave technology into the business. Today, IT managers need to work side by side with their business counterparts and be able to communicate in the language of ROIROI and customer satisfaction, not just the techno-speak flung around in the server room. They must understand underlying business processes and be able to suggest improvements. They need to help make the business cases for new IT projects and convince executives of their merits. Alles zu ROI auf

Here's another reason to make sure you're growing future leaders: Though the staffing crunch of the late '90s may seem as distant as the dream of bug-free software, at some point the economy is going to leave its moribund state and begin to pick up steam. As soon as that happens, your most valuable employees will begin sniffing the air for new opportunities. To keep your people happy - and in their seats - you must allow the future managers, directors and CIOs to gain the same core leadership skills that paved the way for your entrance into the boardroom.

Get on the Leadership Track

At Schneider National, home of the familiar fleet of vivid orange18-wheelers that traverse America's highways daily, the 425-person IT department is divided into two tracks. One is technical: Employees choosing this career path take on roles and responsibilities that require technical competency in areas such as operating systems and product development. Those folks - the hard-core techies who find pleasure (and pain) in the nodes, nooks and crannies of networks - manage machines but, by choice, no people. The other track is managerial: IT staffers who choose this path desire a career that, in addition to developing their technology chops, gives them the opportunity to manage others. "We allow people to see where they want to go," says CIO Steve Matheys. "If they want to be a leader of people, we focus their career on management and people attributes rather than Java programming skills." Currently, 88 percent of his IT staffers are pursuing the technical track; the other 12 percent are the department's future managers.

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