IT professionals must demonstrate leadership capabilities if they want to fulfil their career ambitions, according to a new report.
The report from analyst Gartner subsidiary people3, Developing Effective IT Leaders, said that the changing nature of the IT department means future IT leaders will increasingly be judged on their ability to drive business change, rather than on their technical and operational skills.
Lily Mok, a senior consultant at people3, told vnunet.com that the shift in focus was inevitable as IT changed from a traditional, reactive business function into one that was "proactive and strategic".
"IT professionals must learn how to lead IT like a business, rather than simply managing it," she said.
"They need to be able to think outside the box and move their role away from a purely technical focus towards the right combination of technical, business and leadership skills and competencies."
According to Mok, competencies that would-be leaders need to develop include strategic thinking, politics and influencing, interpersonal communication, an innovative approach and a focus on achieving results.
Stressing the importance to understand the difference between leadership skills and competencies, Mok said: "Skills are essentially an individual's practical abilities acquired through training and experience, which are usually easy to identify and develop.
"Competencies, on the other hand, come from someone's self-concept, traits and motives, and have been shown to be predictive of superior performance in a given job or role."
Mok added that ambitious IT professionals should try to understand and acquire the skills and competencies needed by the business, irrespective of whether their IT organisations had a formal leadership development programme.
"They should seek on-the-job opportunities such as leading critical projects or new IT initiatives, or becoming a mentor or coach to other staff," she said.
"They can also use an online, computer-based assessment tool to assess their competencies, or take a course or attend a seminar on leadership development offered by a training company or leadership-coaching consultant."
IT executives can also look for development and experience outside of the workplace, such as volunteering for a professional association's leadership committee, Mok added.
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