While there exists a range of studies on the issue of leadership in general, research on leadership in the context of information and communication technology (ICT) firms is rather limited. This is an extremely important topic because ICT firms experience quite different circumstances of operation than those faced by non-ICT firms. Uncertainty and complexity characterize ICT firms which influence strategies of leadership. As a result, leaders typically know too little or often have volumes of unreliable information about the future. As a result, leadership of contemporary ICT firms is an extremely complex and interesting area of research. The aim of the thesis is to understand the role of leadership in ICT firms, especially in relation to issues of uncertainty and complexity. This question is approached through a blend of secondary data and theoretical analysis coupled with a limited set of interviews with leaders in Oslo. The research approach adopted was interpretive as the aim was to understand how leadership at one level is shaped by particular socio-cultural-market conditions, and at another level is a function of personality and individual issues. It was felt that such issues can not be adequately grasped through a positivist approach.
Leaders of ICT firms need to motivate the employees to stay in the firm and to perform optimal work. Leaders of ICT companies also need to trust their employees to a large degree, so that the employees can use their full potential in contributing to the firm. Furthermore, leaders of ICT firms need to be playful in their approach to work because it contributes to motivation and learning. In addition, leaders of ICT firms need intelligent employees that understand technology, its implications and use. The leaders need to be intelligent themselves so that they can understand technology, the real issues their employees face, and how to organize the firm efficiently.
The testing of software should be done as soon as possible after each minor piece of programming to ensure that the program works so far. Thus leaders need to install procedures which reward error-free program pieces and slightly punish the creation of noticed bugs. The development should be divided into features of the program rather than phases of the waterfall approach. In this way the most important features can be developed first, which spares confusing details to later on. Thus leaders need to organize projects, buffer times and timelines according to estimations and expectations based on what the program is to do first, then next, and so on instead of focusing on separate specification, design, programming, and testing phases.
The theoretical contribution of the thesis is in the form of a model of leadership that has been inductively derived based on the empirical analysis. The model firstly identifies four key contextual conditions that influence leadership approaches. These relate to markets, technology, the physical environment and the political setting. These contextual conditions shape leadership styles. Eight dimensions of leadership style are identified and discussed. Trust, motivation, playfulness, and intelligence are seen to be opposed to power, authority, bureaucracy and risk, respectively. For example, gaining more trust implies letting go of power. While in ICT firms, the factors of trust, motivation, playfulness and intelligence seem to be more relevant, the other four are seen as relevant for leadership of non-ICT firms.