The Challenge/Vision: The Central Ohio CIO Forum identified that the region did not have enough leaders to step into CIO roles to meet its projected growth. As one of the nation’s top technology corridors, this talent shortage put the region’s economic development plans at risk. As a result, the group partnered with Expedient and the Innovative Leadership Institute to create an IT Leadership program to develop the technology leadership talent needed to meet projected demand. Participants meet 2.5 hours per month, including six in-class learning sessions with pre-defined topics, roundtable executive presentations, discussion sessions, and two networking events.

According to the American Society of Training and Development, US businesses spend more than $170b annually on leadership-based curricula, focused primarily on “leadership training.” However, 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 an organizational leader interested in developing people working for you, it is essential to have helpful information about selecting a leadership development program. There are plenty of opportunities to spend your money from one-day classes to online programs to comprehensive university programs. So 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?

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. Therefore, the delivery team needed to identify an alternative approach that would be equally compelling for participants to ensure they continued to receive the value promised when they enrolled.

Goal: 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.

Solution: The program is co-delivered by Innovative Leadership Institute and Expedient which leverages the 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 9-minute video to learn more about how participants describe their involvement and impact.

Online Leadership Development


Program design

In partnership with Expedient, ILI 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
    1. In-Class Program content – 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. In addition, 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.
    2. Round tables – Local CIOs provide insights from their professional experience to help IT Leaders build business understanding and perspective about the journey to becoming a senior leaders. These sessions are very open and candid. The City of Dublin, Ohio, leads a roundtable talking about workforce development. The City of Dublin is a co-sponsor of the program.
    3. Networking events are a crucial element of the program. A strong community requires leaders to build a network to share information and support one another in navigating the challenges technology leaders face.
    4. Assessment – Participants take pre and post-session Innovative Leadership behavior assessments (some with Boss feedback). Participants incorporate this feedback into learning assignments. In addition, we invite you to take a free mini-ILI Competency assessment.
    5. Parallel path complete leadership workbook activities presented in six modules: leverage International Award Winning Innovative Leadership workbooks, podcasts, and videos delivered by the Kajabi Online Platform.
    6. Create accountability by submitting the leadership workbook activities as deliverables and receive feedback: track deliverables and attendance for certification.
    7. 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.
    8. Challenge previously held constraints by the class participants on how to be a leader and show leadership traits.
    9. Build a network of like-minded peers in each cohort, a group of technology professionals whose opinions they can trust, based on class interaction
    10. Evaluate progress by soliciting participant and CIO feedback on participant’s development progress.
    11. Collaboration by Slack (Advanced Leadership Program Only).
    12. 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.

IT Leaders Certificate

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
    1. 260 participants in the first four cohorts, representing 104 Central Ohio organizations
    2. 30% have had a promotion since the first cohort started (per LinkedIn)
    3. 10 participants were promoted to a C-Level role – CIO, CTO, CISO, Chief Strategy, or Chief Transformation Officer
    4. 82 of the first 150 participants have earned a certification of completion
    5. 10 participants advanced to participate in the Advanced Leadership Development Program Pilot
    6. $56,000 raised so far for the Central Ohio CIO Forum Scholarship Fund from the first four cohorts
    7. Participation is approximately 30% for both women and minorities.
    8. Graduates take advantage of the Muskingum MISST program’s credits course waived for course participants.
    9. Attendance increased for online Zoom sessions during the pandemic by approximately 20%.
    10. Graduates will receive discounted tuition for Franklin University graduate programs.
    11. Graduates receive certification from the Innovative Leadership Institute and the Mason Leadership Center at Franklin University.
  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, according to what they learned by being in the program? 4.5
    3. If the participant(s) currently leads a group, how much has their group’s culture and/or performance 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 60% of participants meet the rigorous requirements for certification.
  4. Community success
    1. Better prepared leaders for additional leadership responsibility (see survey results).
    2. Program enrollment remains substantial and increasing – companies continue to enroll the maximum number of participants in the class. Over 118 companies have registered their employees.
    3. Promotion of local leaders – companies fill senior roles with local talent.
    4. ILI continually updates content – content remains fresh to address community requirements. In addition, ILI adds refreshed content and value to each successive course.
    5. Diverse leaders – programs continue to attract increasing rates of women and minorities, thereby improving leadership quality because of a more diverse pool of candidates.
  5. Watch a 9-minute video of participants describing the impact in their own words.

Conclusion: The best leaders elevate their leadership quality by actively participating in well-designed and effectively delivered leadership development programs. The IT Leaders programs involve a range of activities that include participants learning key frameworks, building skills, practicing new behaviors, reflecting on new skills and self-awareness activities, and feedback. We created the program to leverage the latest research on leadership development for adult learners. One defining feature of this program is that it heavily leverages technology to support learning outcomes. For example, when the State of Ohio was on work-from-home requirements, the IT Leaders program helped its participants build the leadership skills they needed to navigate the complex and uncertain territory of leading during a pandemic. Future classes will continue to build on the success of the past four years.