Hey CIOs, your proteges want better experience

Hands-on experience leading an enterprisewide project is the best way to get ahead, according to an exclusive CIO magazine survey of 100 respondents identified by their managers as up-and-coming IT leaders.

A whopping 76 percent of those who had the opportunity to lead such a project rated the experience as critical to their career development. The survey, conducted earlier this year, also found that 52 percent are only somewhat satisfied with their leadership development opportunities. Mentoring or coaching by internal (37 percent) or external (53 percent) leaders also ranks among the most frequently cited leadership development opportunities of interest.

Aspiring leaders face obstacles, however. Thirty-nine percent of respondents said they lack time to devote to their career development, while 19 percent said they lack management support. However, 54 percent envision themselves as CIOs in five years, while 29 percent are aiming for some other corporate leadership role.

“For many, the challenge is availability of opportunity, to be at a place where they can actually grow,” says Simon Dunning, managing director at Applied Materials. “It’s a double-edged sword. You need the opportunities to grow but you also need to be successful at the opportunities. It only takes one failure to destroy a lifetime of growth.” (Read about the experiences of emerging IT leaders in “Pathways to Leadership,” Page 37.)

Relationship building (78 percent), change leadership (75Ã’Â percent) and the ability to shape executive expectations (67 percent) are among the leadership skills most instrumental to getting those we surveyed where they are today. Driving business innovation (49 percent) and strategic planning (44 percent) were most frequently cited as the skills these future leaders are most interested in improving.

According to Brad Busick, manager of change management for the city of Takoma, Wash., younger IT staff may also benefit from their familiarity with rapidly changing technology and social networking tools.

“Today’s Twitter is yesterday’s CIO conference that required everybody to fly to Florida,” says Busick. “It’s real-time, relevant and that is the competitive advantage for the next group of leaders coming up through the ranks.”

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