CIO Development

Blog Rediscovering technology leadership

If you have ever asked yourself how can I become a better, more powerful, more significant technology leader, take heart. Two leader generations ago some of the best IT leaders we have ever had in the UK were asking themselves the same questions.

Back then we were more naive, asking:

Are leaders born or made?
What’s the difference between a leader and a manager?
How can I become the best IT leader I can possibly be?

We formed an IT leadership special interest group of many of the smartest and most ambitious IT leaders in the FTSE, which met around 30 times, and we invited some of the world’s top business and sports leadership gurus to come to London to speak to us. We commissioned research and eventually built a technology leader career development model, a giant game of snakes and ladders, with four clear routes to the top and identified traps to avoid. Finally, having figured it all out, we set up the IS Leaders Academy to pass the knowledge on to future generations of technology leaders.

By “we” in all this I mean the KPMG IMPACT Programme, a cross-sector, user-technology leadership network that directly engaged over 40 percent of the FTSE 100 and equivalent large company IT leaders. The programme, like the leaders we educated, grew, matured and was eventually superseded by new business and technology challenges.

Fast forward to 2016. Many of those involved are now retired and the former rock-stars of IT are dying off. Back then we had the ubiquitous chip and a future that was bright. We now have a generation of technology leaders who have grown up in more austere times and are swamped by digital era technologies disrupting everything we thought we knew. But one thing remains unchanged.

Today, we need more and better technology leaders in our great companies than ever before.

There is a great premium available to corporate technology leaders willing to face up to this like previous generations faced it; to ask again the old questions and to figure out the answers for a new generation. “How can I become the best technology leader I can possibly be?”

We already have many of the answers. Watch this space.

2 comments on “Rediscovering technology leadership

  • 07 Sep 2017 | David Edmonds says:

    The first question I would ask is “what is a leader”? Many of the people I coach consider themselves to be leaders, However, when they describe their role they turn out to be highly effective managers. An essential task, but this can be the reason organisations get stuck. My own definition (which I have borrowed) of a leader is “someone who makes something happen that wasn’t going to happen anyway”. I believe anyone who inspires to be a leader can be a leader”. The two driving forces needed are a strong commitment to transform something and the ability to look at yourself and see what it is about you that stops you from doing what needs to be done.

    • 10 Oct 2017 | Brinley Platts replied:

      Thanks for comment David. I agree that we fequently confuse “leading” and “managing.” Most organisations don’t even have a job title that includes “leading” anything so maybe we need a new consensus. Your definition is along the right lines but I think it is too wide. For instance there’s a whole theory of management (McGreggor’s Theory X) that assumes people are inferently lazy and will avoid working where possible. In this situation work itself wasn’t going to happen unless you stand over your workers cracking the whip, and I’m sure you wouldn’t consider this good leadership. General Norman Schwarzkopf points out the “leaders lead people, people with lives and dreams and families, to perform better than they otherwise would.” Is this closer to the essence of it?

Leave a Comment