Future IT Leaders Lack Mentors


CIO Journal | April 26, 2013


​Division CIOs and other technology executives below the level of Global CIO are suffering from a lack of mentorship and support, according to a survey by executive recruiting firm Russell Reynolds Associates.

Global CIOs who want to exert their influence over corporate strategy need to make sure they’re still executing on the basics – making sure email is working and servers are running. This has led to the development of the so-called office of the CIO, and of IT organizations with divisional CIOs and other rising IT leaders. “The hero culture [in IT] is rapidly devolving” and CIOs recognize “they have to build highly competent organizations around them,” said Russell Reynolds executive Shawn Banerji Friday, during a forum sponsored by the Columbia University Executive Master of Science in Technology Management program.

Paradoxically, however, global CIOs, are failing to help their direct reports learn the people skills needed to become more effective managers.

According to the survey of 985 CIOs and other senior technology leaders conducted by RRA in 2012, only 20% credited their mentors with helping them develop people skills needed for driving business success; 14% said their managers provided that support, and 6% said their HR departments offered such help.

Mr. Banerji said this is “a death knell for functional IT leadership and [getting a seat] at the board level.” He added, “if you’re at one of these distressed companies, your chances of becoming a CIO are severely limited.”

The full study entitled Rethinking People Leadership in IT: Four Key Findings for Boosting IT Leader Selection, Performance and Succession, which surveyed nearly 1,000 IT leaders from around the world, will be available soon. Key findings include:

  • CIOs cite people skills as most important to the success of the function. Indeed, there is strong link between effective people skills and effective business skills, such as strategic planning, business acumen, and change leadership.
  • Despite the importance CIOs place on people skills, CIOs simultaneously rank people skills as most in need of improvement amongst their teams.
  • Unfortunately, few rising IT leaders feel they are getting the people-skills development they need from their managers and organizations. (Only 14% say their manager is effective and less than 10% say their training and HR departments are effective.)
  • Our research profiles a number of unique hiring and development tactics that both CIOs and rising IT leaders can use to improve their people skills (and therefore their core business skills).

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Future IT Leaders Lack Mentors