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Effective leadership development in information technology: building transformational and emergent leaders

Louis Hickman (Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, USA)
Mesut Akdere (Department of Technology Leadership and Innovation, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, USA)

Industrial and Commercial Training

ISSN: 0019-7858

Article publication date: 3 November 2017

Issue publication date: 2 January 2018



Effective leadership has been the focus of much research in recent years, but leadership development is still understudied. Information technology (IT) continues to grow in importance due to the industries IT creates, the industries IT disrupts, and the potential IT holds for all companies. Because leadership is highly context bound, the purpose of this paper is to examine leadership development in the IT context to take first steps toward establishing best practices for IT leadership development.


This conceptual paper reviews leadership in general before performing an integrated literature review of leadership as it has been studied in the IT context. Then the paper presents three propositions regarding effective IT leadership development.


IT leadership development should involve formal mentoring, robust feedback that is integrated into the development plan, and should be treated as a core process for long-term success. Emergent and transformational leadership are important for IT.

Practical implications

It behooves IT departments to implement the leadership development programs proposed here because leadership has been identified as one of the most difficult skills to find in IT employees. The findings can inform training professionals exploring ways to improve the leadership capacity and leadership development in the IT units of their organizations.


The paper’s literature review uncovered no quantitative peer-reviewed research on leadership development in the IT context, suggesting an area of need for further empirical studies. Researchers and practitioners alike will benefit from a greater understanding of leadership development in IT.



Earlier version of this paper was presented at the 12th Annual Conference of the Midwest United States Association for Information Systems (Springfield, Illinois).


Hickman, L. and Akdere, M. (2018), "Effective leadership development in information technology: building transformational and emergent leaders", Industrial and Commercial Training, Vol. 50 No. 1, pp. 1-9.



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