The Kinetic leader: Boldly reinventing the enterprise

Findings from the 2020 Global Technology Leadership Study

Faced with unprecedented uncertainty, businesses now more than ever need their technology leaders to be resilient, agile, and future-focused. At the same time, current market, economic, and social conditions indicate this is the time for transformational, not incremental, change – and who better than technology leaders to help drive this change?

This year’s Global Technology Leadership Study includes more than 1,300 participants across 69 countries and 22 industry sectors (figure 1). The naming shift from global CIO survey to Global Technology Leadership Study recognises the increased scope of technology leadership roles, such as CIOs, CDOs, and CTOs – but also acknowledges the deeper technology engagement of CEOs, CFOs, COOs, and leaders in strategy, innovation, and R&D. The increase in survey respondents from outside the technology function – from 22 percent in 20182 to 40 percent in 2020 – is directly correlated with the organisational importance of technology.

The kinetic leader: Boldly reinventing the enterprise


Though the world has changed since work on the 2020 Global Technology Leadership Study began last summer, the findings from this research are even more pertinent to the current situation. For example, it is no longer enough for CIOs to be a trusted operator or even a strategic business cocreator (see the sidebar, “The evolution of CIO pattern types”). Even before the current disruption, technology leaders were being called upon to serve as change agents – kinetic leaders who envision, enable, and deliver growth and help their organisations navigate through change. The 2020 Global Technology Leadership Study describes the attributes, objectives, and practices of organisations that are ahead of their peers and explores the critical dimensions of change for technology leaders. Key findings include:

  • Companies that are ahead of their competition have a growth orientation and engaged leadership. In our analysis, slightly more than one in 10 (11.6 percent) organisations are delivering significant value through technology. Distinguished by an orientation toward growth and leaders who advocate for, prioritise, and appreciate the value of technology, these companies are at the leading edge of leveraging technology for business growth. They have different operating rhythms and strategic priorities, not just in the technology function, but across the entire enterprise.
  • Organisations need kinetic leaders to drive innovation and manage change. The perspectives of C-suite executives and corporate board members on the role of the future technology leader are converging: Business and technology leaders agree that their organisations need dynamic, change-oriented technology leaders – kinetic leaders – to help envision the technology-driven future, lead complex transformations, and be the chief architect of innovation and change for the business.
  • Opportunities abound for tech leaders who have the tenacity to lead across the enterprise. By stepping beyond a functional leadership role, tech leaders can drive technology deep into the organisation. This requires organisations to embrace enterprise agility by rethinking their approaches to talent, learning and collaboration, and strategic technology funding practices.

2020 Global Technology Leadership Study

During this time of unprecedented volatility and uncertainty, technology leaders have an opportunity to help guide their organisations. Not only can they hone strategies for managing the crisis at hand and the recovery ahead, but they can also prepare for and lead tech-driven transformation that could help their businesses thrive as they and their industries adapt to the new norms of the postpandemic world.3 Tools may include a technology visionary’s outlook, an appetite for growth and transformation, the willingness to make audacious bets, and the tenacity to stick to their convictions. Their leadership skills can help them influence business strategy, develop the next generation of talent, and integrate technology into the fabric of the business.

For a business to grow, it has to let go of some old ways and habits and cultivate others in order to move forward. That’s hard to do. To lead in this environment, you have to have resilience, self-awareness, and self-confidence to lead through growth and change.

- Sandy Beach Lin, board member, American Electric Power, PolyOne, Trinseo, and Interface Biologics4

COVID-19 will likely continue to have implications for businesses, accelerating the move from physical to virtual ways of operating and requiring technology leaders to help architect significant enterprise changes. These disruptions call for bold thinking and a sweeping vision of transformation – an incremental approach is a timid substitute.

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