Many tech-focused organizations face a leadership gap — or worse, multiple leadership gaps within their departments. Their technology leaders lack clear vision or direction, and they may have trouble communicating that vision to their executive teams and to other key stakeholders throughout the organization. Establishing an effective, purpose-driven vision is essential to strategically build out stronger technology teams and to align them with overarching company goals.
Vision and purpose take the lead
Top global tech leaders at McKinsey’s 18th annual Technology IT Conference discussed four key themes resulting from the pandemic and lessons learned. Vision and purpose took the lead, and the following themes outlined in McKinsey’s 2022 article “Keeping technology transformation at the top of the agenda” are fuel that tech leaders can use to maintain momentum from successful digital and other transformations — especially during times of increased volatility:
- Vision and purpose
- Reduction of complexity
- Tech-enabled business leadership
Closing the leadership gap in technology requires setting a clear vision and direction, which can be challenging in a dynamic and constantly changing environment. New and even some established tech leaders may find it difficult to create a vision that is clear and adaptable. Further, as part of their strategic role, these leaders will need to justify their vision’s value, and demonstrate its alignment with the broader company-wide vision and goals.
Why do tech leaders need a vision?
Vision doesn’t just fall under the domain of presidents and other high profile gurus. Leaders at all levels of organizations — including tech leaders — must create a purpose-driven vision that guides and motivates their teams to achieve business goals. However, that’s just a first step, and things are more complex for tech leaders in particular, as they must also demonstrate that their digital strategy and technology initiatives deliver business value.
How does vision impact direction in technology?
Consider: Deloitte’s 2020 Global Technology Leadership Study found that visionary tech leaders are almost four times more likely than their counterparts to say with confidence that their technology function and approach to shaping business strategy is transformational. Further, they’re more prepared to tackle the following strategic initiatives that focus on business impact:
- Adopting new business models
- Overhauling operational business models, including learning and talent management
- Emphasizing innovation and allocating more technology budget accordingly
- Actively championing technology-enabled change
Without a clear vision, technology leaders and their teams have no true sense of direction. They’re unlikely to adequately prepare for business transformation efforts or anticipate disruptions when the next crisis emerges. Ultimately, tech leaders who lack vision can create less than optimal consequences such as:
- Misaligned team vision and overall company vision, mission, and goals
- A lack of clear direction
- Increased stress
- Unfinished projects
- Unmet goals
- Costly mistakes
- Talent attraction, engagement, and retention issues
- Executive and tech leader frustration
- Widening leadership gaps
How to develop a clear vision that effectively guides direction
Gartner’s August 2022 article, “7 rules for creating a compelling value story for IT,” outlines the following rules to help tech leaders develop a clear and effective vision:
- Identify key stakeholders; they determine the value.
- Capture and validate desired benefits with key stakeholders and leadership.
- Build ‘run’ and ‘change’ narratives.
- Measure the technology impact on stakeholders’ objectives.
- Align IT costs with the business services it enables.
- Use stakeholder language to convey the technology team’s value.
- Work collaboratively to justify costs and define business value.
Start with ‘Leading Self’
In the last several years, the world has seen a global pandemic, tech-enabled hybrid workplaces, and the globalization of information. Amidst these changes, the demand for human connection and trustworthy leadership has never been greater.
Before tech leaders can successfully develop a clear vision or guide their teams, they first need to develop a leadership capability that we call “Leading Self.” To lead themselves, they must have a clear vision for their leadership role, a greater sense of self-awareness, and be able to effectively communicate. Definitely don’t neglect that last one. Research conducted in 2021 by Sounding Board and CLO showed that self-awareness and communication were consistently ranked among the most important leadership capabilities for leaders to develop at all levels.
Learning and talent leaders can facilitate this knowledge and capabilities acquisition by providing tech leaders access to leadership development programs that incorporate the leadership coaching necessary to improve how they ‘Lead Self.’ Only after tech leaders can effectively set their own vision of leadership, can they set their team vision, provide guidance, achieve desired business outcomes, and close the leadership gap in technology at all levels.
At Sounding Board, we help leaders develop the capabilities needed to lead themselves, lead others, and lead for impact. Request a demo today.
Moira Alexander is a freelancer for Sounding Board, a tech-enabled leadership coaching company designed to bridge the leadership gap. She is also the founder of Lead-Her-Ship Group, a digital content creation and marketing services company, and a certified project management and IT professional.