Information Systems Leadership: A Call To The Future

Information systems (ISs) are a critical resource for the day-to-day operations of organizations. Since dependence on IS has been growing operationally and strategically, pondering on a leadership style that is congruent with IS, is essential yet overlooked.

IS leadership requires the extra dimension of IS intelligence to general leadership. Usually, IS leadership is confided to the role of the Chief Information Officers (CIO). The CIO position was created in the early 1980s as organizations started to recognize the rising importance of IT to improve organizational performance. The CIO is defined as the senior executive responsible for establishing corporate information policy, standards and management control over all corporate information resources. However, considering the rapid technologization process and the requirement of younger generations for their leaders to be technologically-oriented, CIOs cannot be solely responsible for IS Leadership. Thus, IS Leadership should be implemented at all leadership levels taking into consideration the following:

Intelligences Used for IS Leadership 

IS Leaders should possess four types of intelligence, namely political, social, business and IS. Also, the IS Leader interchangeably fulfils the following roles: Business strategist; Integrator; Relationship; Architect; Utility provider; Information; Steward and Educator.

IS Strategic Leadership

Strategic leadership, referring to leadership by executives who have overall responsibility for the enterprise, is the preferred leadership style to be implemented by IS leaders, precisely because of the broad spectrum of activities that must be covered. The main objective of strategic leadership is strategic productivity, which is nowadays achieved through technology.

Alignment with Broader Organizational Goals

The intelligent implementation of IS Leadership is only possible within a favorable setting. Co-alignment of organizational and IS goals for which the IS leader is primarily responsible is generally viewed as critical for the success of both the organization and IS. A key factor in achieving alignment is the emergence of a shared understanding of the strategic direction between the IS leader and the top management team (TMT). The shared CIO/TMT understanding can be developed by knowledge exchange mechanisms and the relational similarity, based on common interests, experiences and functional background. Furthermore, the ability of the IS leader to manage TMT expectations on IS capabilities creates a shared IS Leader/TMT understanding.

Questions To Drive Actions

The following questions should drive the IS leadership process:

  1. How can goals be best explained through an online platform?
  2. How can technology speed up the completion of a goal?
  3. How can teams of people best work together in a remote setting?

Gradual Implementation of IS leadership

Leading through technology can disrupt the culture especially for the older generations of employees. Thus, it is recommended for constant, trainings, discussions and clarifications. The overall transition to IS leadership may take up to 1-2 years as processes are translated into the IS environment.

The work environment is becoming more dependent on ISs and leaders have to adapt their leadership style to the increasing use of technology if they want to remain relevant and lead towards the future.