10 Must-Have Competencies for Infrastructure & Operations Leaders

August 29, 2019

Contributor: Katie Costello

I&O leaders can advance their organizations digital transformation journey by adopting a leadership style steeped in 10 key competencies.

Jack just stepped into his role as infrastructure and operations (I&O) lead at his company. His predecessor was not equipped to evolve beyond the traditional command-and-control leadership style to meet the organization’s digital transformation goals.

Jack knows that to be a successful I&O leader in the digital age, he must exemplify “servant leadership” by being a facilitator and negotiator, able to remove barriers for his team. The context and nuances of leading I&O can be quite different from other areas of IT,” says Katherine Lord, VP Analyst at Gartner. “The digital age calls for servant leadership, which requires systems thinking, collaboration, flexible teams and versatility.”

Eighty percent of I&O organizations that fail to develop servant leadership competencies will not meet their digital transformation goals. Gartner identified 10 key competencies needed for effective I&O leadership. These competencies emphasize the importance of fostering a culture focused on improvement and experimentation (not perfection); developing new and existing talent; and influencing and supporting multiple stakeholders effectively. 

Gartner identifies the 10 competencies of effective infrastructure and operations servant leaders.

Create an action plan to cultivate servant leadership


First, I&O leaders must take the time to self-reflect and determine their level of ability for each of the 10 competencies. In which areas are they are succeeding? Where do they need to develop or hone their skills? The idea of self-assessment can be daunting, but it is absolutely necessary to develop an action plan. Using a scoring rubric to indicate the degree to which you are fulfilling these competencies transitions well into the adaptation phase of the action plan.  


Once the gaps and opportunities for improvements are identified, create an action plan that will reduce deficiencies and build on existing strengths. For example, if you need to be more business-centric, adapt a mindset that calls for better integration with business partners. Then, come up with a specific action to support that mindset, such as having reports use language that is more business-oriented than technology-specific.  Consider enlisting a mentor who can keep you honest along the way, and understand that this process does not happen overnight. “Perfection is not the goal,” says Lord. 


One of the most important aspects of I&O leaders’ jobs is to be leaders of leaders, rather than simply delegating work. Coach and empower direct reports to practice cross-functional leadership, which will break down organizational silos, build support networks that reach beyond their functions, and encourage more agility and effectiveness. These investments in your own leadership skills, and those of your people, will yield exponentially stronger outcomes. “Fostering servant leadership throughout I&O is one of the most powerful things that leaders can do to advance their organization’s digital transformation journey,” says Lord.

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