New Skills Needed by IT Leaders to Lead the Future of Work

Cheryl Cran

January 31, 2019

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We have been talking about and focused on technology in business for the past few decades. Many IT leaders have been immersed in helping companies through digital transformations including replacing legacy systems, migrating to cloud, adapting to BYOD, and more.

While there is no question that technology has completely transformed and is transforming business, we are at a significant crossroads. That crossroad is that once where technology was glamorized and the focal point for business, we are now seeing a shift to focusing on ‘people’ first.

Think about it: in the past, a CEO might give a directive to the CIO that the company must have digital transformation within a short period of time. With that directive, the CIO sets off to transformation on people.

Many companies focused on pushing through new technology without focusing on the impact of massive change on the people using the technology. Add to that that many IT leaders in a bid to get the new technology up and integrated did not take the time to use solid ‘change leadership’ approaches with the teams in the company.

Today, with multiple and ongoing digital transformations, I am seeing as a future of work consultant the ‘burn out’ effect this is having on people. At NextMapping we have conducted hundreds of surveys and polls where people surveyed have said that they are ‘change weary’ and that they feel ‘burned out’ by the constant and ongoing changes, including those in technology.

The Fatigue Factor Has Kicked in

While many IT leaders have successfully integrated new technology, there has been a side effect of the fatigue factor. Recently I worked with a municipal IT leader who admitted that she had been driving IT transformation without realizing that even with the new technology integration the people were not embracing the new tech, not leveraging the new tech, and were in fact some cases resisting the use of the new tech.

The IT leader recognized that she had not factored in the ‘human nature’ factor that people will be more likely to engage with change if they have been included in the change. In her next IT project, she conducted surveys, talked to stakeholders one-on-one, gathered feedback through the digital transformation process, and communicated on an ongoing basis. The result? Complete 100% adoption rate of new technology with zero hiccups in integration.

New Skills Needed by Tech Leaders

Where once it was enough for a highly technical IT leader to have the technology know-how and expertise, there are new skills needed to lead into the future.

Some of the skills that IT leaders, and frankly, all leaders need to develop now and into the future are:

  • The ability to deeply understand human nature and psychology as it relates to change

  • The ability to help people navigate change and understand the cycles of change

  • The ability to see multiple perspectives and every angle of a situation—this could include seeing a digital transformation through the eyes of every person in the company

  • Opening up to crowdsourcing and asking for opinions and input on technology strategies before the digital transformation process begins

  • The ability to candidly solicit input and ideas from the stakeholders in the company

  • Influencing and creating ‘influencers’ that lead the positive aspects of the technology changes

  • Increased people skills that include emotional intelligence, generations intelligence, and creative intelligence

Many IT leaders have been given kudos for their technical abilities and have not been expected to have to relate to people. This is going to change now and into the future. IT leaders need to be able to engage, understand, and inspire the people that they are working with.

Conversely, this means that people in the company who have people skills but do not have technology skills need to adapt, adopt, and embrace technology to enhance on-the-job performance.

In the future of work, we are seeing a shift toward focusing on the question:

How will this technology improve the lives of the people it's impacting (clients, employees, etc.)?

Then from that question, time needs to be spent on gathering data through surveys, one-on-one conversations, and feedback to help develop the most comprehensive digital transformation plan that is focused on ‘people first.’

All leaders need to develop new skills to create a new future.

Cheryl Cran is a future-of-work expert and the founder of, a future-of-work research and consulting firm that helps leaders, teams, and entrepreneurs be future-ready.
She is the author of six books, including her new one due out at the end of 2018 titled
, NextMapping—How Great Leaders Inspire People to Create the Future of Work.

Opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of WITI.

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