Trying times test IT leadership

Turbulent times offer the best test of an IT executive’s mettle, and never before have so many forces converged to challenge today’s technology leadership.

“Times are difficult. There is conflict, recession and erosion of trust. It’s really quite stunning,” said Warren G. Bennis, a professor of management at the University of Southern California, in his keynote address to attendees at the Computerworld Premier 100 conference in Arizona.

Through interviews with 150 leaders, Bennis has found the following six core competencies that describe what people want from their technology leaders:

People want direction. Leaders provide that direction by creating a sense of purpose in the organization and defining shared goals and objectives. Workers also want passion in their leaders. It’s a trait “you can spot in a minute,” said Bennis.

People want trust. Successful leaders provide organizational integrity, which involves competence, constancy, caring, candour and congruity.

People want understanding and acknowledgement. Exemplary leaders provide the power of appreciation and deep listening. An appreciation of workers is often a missing element in organizations.

People want hope and optimism. Leaders provide that through something Bennis called “adaptive capacity,” an ability to seize opportunities and be creative. A great leader’s outlook tends to the positive, he said.

People want learning and personal growth. Great leaders provide developmental opportunities. Especially in the IT field, a sense of learning and growth is what people are looking for.

People want results. Leaders have a bias toward action, risk and courage. More than anything else, a great leader must be able to execute.

When the qualities that people want – and that leaders can provide – converge, the results for companies can be clear goals and objectives, consistency, a loyal and more productive workforce, and improved confidence and creativity, said Bennis.