Case Study: Building a High Impact IT Leadership Development Program

This case study delves into how the Innovative Leadership Institute designed a leadership development program for Ohio IT professionals for CIO forum.

According to the American Society of Training and Development, US businesses spend more than 170 Billion dollars on a leadership-based curriculum, with the majority of those dollars  spent on "Leadership Training."

According to McKinsey, "there is no silver bullet for successfully developing leaders - more than 40 key actions must be taken to increase chances of success to 80 percent". As a leader interested in developing or as an organizational leader interested in developing people working for you, it is essential to have useful information about how to select a leadership development program.

There are plenty of opportunities to spend your money from one-day classes to online programs to comprehensive university programs. How do you make the best decision to ensure you are investing your time and money wisely and that you have a high probability of success from your investment?

The Challenge/Vision

The Central Ohio CIO Forum identified a gap in the number of leaders ready to step into CIO roles for the projected regional growth. To address this opportunity, they partnered with Expedient and the Innovative Leadership Institute to build an IT Leadership program that meets 2.5 hours per month, including six in-class learning sessions with pre-defined topics, roundtable executive presentations, and discussion sessions, and two networking events.

An additional challenge

During the fourth cohort, the US experienced a pandemic, and Ohio precluded in-person gatherings of more than ten people. Additionally, the university facility where we met was closed. The delivery team needed to identify an alternative approach to deliver that would be equally compelling for participants to ensure they continued to receive the value promised when they enrolled.


Elevate the quality of IT Leadership in Central Ohio to support succession planning, economic development of the region, healthy business growth, and business financial success, improve employee engagement, and attract and retain top technology talent to the Central Ohio region.


The program is co-delivered by Innovative Leadership Institute and Expedient that leverages best leadership models and content, leadership assessments, learning technology, and learning methods and processes. The image below reflects the combination of tools and approaches. Listen to participant feedback 5-minute video to learn more about how participants describe their involvement and impact.

Program Design

ILI, in partnership with Expedient, designed the program to meet the outcomes and desired learning experience based on CIO Forum goals and designated topics. This section describes the details of the approach to designing and delivering the program.

1. Identify the best leadership models and materials to meet the learning goals.

2. Identify the best learning approach based on leading research focused on the most effective method for leadership development. The approach leverages:

In-Class Program content (moved to Zoom delivery during the pandemic) - In-class activities 2.5 hours/month (six content sessions and four expert round table discussions. Programs are updated regularly based on trends and leadership research. The Ohio based team partnered with The Engagement Company to restructure the in-person sessions to offer a highly engaging online learning experience using Zoom and expert online facilitation.

Round tables - Local CIOs provide insights from their professional expertise to help IT Leaders build business understanding as well as perspective about the journey to becoming a senior leader. These sessions are very open and candid. Jeremiah Gracia, Economic Development, City of Dublin, Ohio, leads a roundtable talking about workforce development. The City of Dublin is a co-sponsor of the program.

Networking events - These are a crucial element of the program. A strong community requires leaders to build a network to share information as well as support one another in navigating the challenges technology leaders face.

Assessment - participants take a pre and post-session Innovative Leadership behavior assessment powered by SkillNet (some with Boss feedback). Participants incorporate this feedback into learning assignments. Read the blog by Mike Kritzman, founder of SkillNet A Proven 5 Step Approach to Solve Skill Gaps and listen to his podcast SkillNet: Personalized Learning Framework for Your Company. We invite you to take a free mini-ILI Competency assessment.

Parallel path complete leadership workbook activities presented in six modules leveraging International Award Winning Innovative Leadership workbooks, podcasts, and videos delivered by the Kajabi Online Platform. Kajabi Online Platform podcast with founder Travis Rosser. Read the blog post based on Forbes article Leveraging Technology To Improve Leadership Development.

Create accountability - participants submit the leadership workbook activities as deliverables and receive feedback: track deliverables and attendance for certification.  

Strengthen network and support community by sharing assignments with learning partners (matched using Position Success Indicator to identify the best match) Position Success Indicator podcast with Founder Mark Palmer. Read the blog by Mark Palmer The Position Success Indicator (PSI): Your Job Fit Solution for the Future of Work.

Challenge previously held constraints by the class participants on how to be a leader and show leadership traits

Build a network of like-minded peers in each cohort, a group of technology professionals whose opinion they can trust, based on class interaction

Evaluate progress by soliciting participant and CIO feedback on participant's development progress.

Collaboration by Slack (Advanced Leadership Program Only).

Certification for participants who complete all requirements successfully earn an Innovative Leadership Certification. Muskingum University recognizes this certification for its Master of Information Strategy and Systems Technology (MISST) program for three credit hour leadership class.

The basis of this learning approach is 15 years of experience teaching leadership development to MBA students. You can learn more by listening to a podcast with Steve Gruetter and Maureen Metcalf discussing the program in depth.


1. Participant success

  • 200 participants in the first four cohorts, representing 104 Central Ohio organizations
  • 45 of the first 150 participants (30%) have had a promotion since the first cohort started (per LinkedIn)
  • 8 participants promoted to a C-Level role - CIO, CTO, CISO, Chief Strategy or Chief Transformation Officer
  • 82 of the first 150 participants have earned a certification of completion
  • 8 participants advanced to participate in the Advanced Leadership Development Program Pilot
  • $44,000 raised so far for the Central Ohio CIO Forum Scholarship Fund from the first four cohorts
  • The last three cohorts had 32%+ women participants
  • The previous three cohorts have had 32%+ minority participants
  • Participants are taking advantage of the Muskingum MISST program three credits course waived for course participants
  • Attendance increased for online Zoom sessions during the pandemic by approximately 20%.

2. Survey results

  1. Results from IT Leaders Program as measured by CIOs they report to – answers provided reflect a 1-5 scale:
  2. How much have the participant(s) individual leadership skills and/or performance improved over the last year attributable to what they have learned by being in the program? 4.5
  3. If the participant(s) currently leads a group, how much has the culture and/or performance of their group improved over the last year attributable to the participant's leadership? 4.5
  4. How much better prepared are the participant(s) for additional leadership responsibilities/promotion in the future? 5.0

3. Approximately 50% of participants meet the rigorous requirements for certification.

4. Community success

  • Better prepared leaders for additional leadership responsibility (see survey results).
  • Program enrollment remains substantial and increasing – companies continue to enroll the maximum number of participants in the class. Over 75 companies have registered their employees. Cohort five has the most significant number of participants well in advance of program kick-off. 25% enrolled six months in advance of program kick-off.
  • Promotion of local leaders – companies fill senior roles with local talent.
  • ILI continually updates content – content remains fresh to address community requirements. ILI adds refreshed content and value to each successive course.
  • Diverse leaders – programs continue to attract increasing rates of women and minorities, thereby improving the quality of leadership because of a more diverse pool of candidates.

Watch a 5-minute video of participants describing the impact in their own words.

Want to learn more about the Innovative Leadership Institute?

See all courses and certifications currently available from the ILI team and get in touch to see what they can do for you!

Search courses