There are few things more iconic in the technology industry than the visionary leader who changes the world. Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos… the everyday lives of ordinary people around the globe are undeniably changed by the ideas and technologies those individuals brought to life.
Change is always tough, but technological change brings unique challenges.
But they didn’t do it alone. Marshaling the resources, creating the breakthroughs, and developing the markets to bring those ideas to life is tough even for a genius. Getting the most talented people to buy in and work nights, weekends, and holidays takes inspiration and drive.
Technology also represents unique leadership challenges. Increasingly remote workforces scatter employees around the globe, making the traditional approach to collective organizational development impossible. In-demand skillsets are hard to hire for, and retention is a constant worry.
Old-school leadership traits don’t last long in that kind of environment. But organizational leadership is practically tailored for technology companies. With the right training, you can climb the ranks to take your organization into the 21st century.
How Organizational Leadership Enables Technological Breakthroughs
Technology is in many ways a field of creativity and exploration. Programming and systems design isn’t a linear, by-the-book process. Inspiration strikes in the shower; collaboration yields new concepts; brainstorming results in tomorrow’s hot new products.
When you walk into technology companies, you instantly know you’re in a place where leaders work to foster that kind of creativity. The wide open lounge areas, the cafeterias stacked with free food, the whimsical decoration, the pool tables and climbing walls… these are more than just perks. They are part of a concerted effort to attract and inspire creative professionals to their best work every day.
Organizing Open Source Technology Projects Demands Incredible Leadership Talent
Linus Torvalds was all of 21 years old when he made his first newsgroup post announcing his work on a new, free, Unix-like operating system kernel. It didn’t even have a name at that point, but it does today, and everyone knows it: Linux.
Linux runs a big chunk of the internet today, powering some 40 percent of all web servers. It’s a remarkable achievement in technology development for software that doesn’t cost a dime and was started by a university student for fun.
Linus is the leader that made that happen. Because it was free, neither he nor any of the thousands of other developers who created it would be paid directly for their work. That left inspiration as the main motivation.
Beyond that, no formal management structure or release process existed since no company was behind the OS. That left Linus to develop consensus, arbitrate disputes, and offer guidance for how the whole thing came together. In 2005, BusinessWeek named him as one of the best managers of the year.
Of course, he started it all before he completed college, so you can’t point to an organizational leadership degree as the source of his talent. But it’s hard to imagine that an OL grad would have done it any differently!
These efforts and more are right out of the organizational leadership playbook. When senior managers in tech want to make their company shine, they look to the same kind of techniques that organizational leadership provides:
Checking off a list of these tools isn’t quite the same as having the expertise to make use of them in a real high tech environment, though. To learn exactly what OL has to offer and how to use it in technology companies, you’re going to want to earn a college degree in the field.
Degrees in Organizational Leadership for Technology Professionals
It’s a common misconception that technology professionals—particularly at the executive level—must be world-class nerds. It’s true that you must have strong critical thinking and problem-solving skills, and a command of logic and general technical details. But the plain fact of technology today is that it changes too quickly for all but the specialists to truly keep up with the gritty specs underlying all the gee-whiz products.
So as you are searching for a degree to build your technology leadership skills, you don’t need to be looking at computer science or quantitative analysis.
What technology leaders need is a basic grounding in technology, but a strong command of business and strategy.
So organizational leadership degrees with a technology focus are the perfect choice. They are also becoming increasingly common. You’ll find degrees such as:
And coming at the challenge from yet another angle, you’ll find degrees that are oriented toward business education that offer concentrations that overlap both technology and organizational leadership, like the Bachelor of Business Administration with Data Science, Management and Organizational Leadership Concentration.
Finding the Right Level of Organizational Leadership Education for Your Technology Career
Technology is a field that moves fast. It’s not unusual to find people who were in too much of a hurry to wait for colleges to catch up to the state-of-the-art before getting their feet wet. Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg both famously dropped out of Harvard to start Microsoft and Facebook, respectively.
Although it worked out for them, for most folks it’s a better idea to stick it out through graduation. Degrees in technology and organizational leadership above the bachelor’s level give you far better odds of both getting into the field and landing a management-track career.
How far you decide to take your education after that point is up to you. But if you look around at senior leaders in most tech firms today, you’re going to see a lot of master’s degrees on resumes.
These are the basic kinds of organizational leadership degrees you can pursue for a technology career today:
Bachelor’s Degrees in Organizational Leadership for Tech Sector Careers
A four-year degree is pretty much the minimum level of education required for any kind of genuine leadership position in technology today. These programs are packed not just with OL basics and general business training, but a wide array of liberal arts courses. They offer a solid ground in general knowledge and important critical thinking skills that tech businesses demand.
Master’s Degrees in Organizational Leadership for Tech Sector Careers
A master of arts or science in organizational leadership (MAOL/MSOL) takes from one to two years, but elevates your studies of OL principles to the next level. They drill down into the kind of high-level concepts that senior leadership has to master and offer practical exposure and research opportunities in leadership functions.
Doctoral Degrees in Organizational Leadership for Tech Sector Careers
At the very highest academic levels, you’ll find PhD programs in organizational leadership that take anywhere from four to five years to complete. These degrees are mostly aimed at preparing graduates for work in research or academics, but the highly individual nature of each program means you can tailor your studies exactly toward your own interests.
Certificate Programs in Organizational Leadership for Tech Sector Careers
Not everyone looking to brush up on their organizational leadership skills has to time or money to pursue a full degree. For these cases, certificate programs available at the post-secondary, graduate, and post-graduate levels hit the spot. Lasting only months, they zoom in on the most critical OL education and training to get you the key skills you need without more general studies.
Two Degrees May Be Better Than One When It Comes to Tech and Organizational Leadership
For some technology professionals, it’s not going to be enough to get the 50,000 foot view of tech that comes with an OL degree technology concentration. Intensive tech programs like data science require more than just a few electives—you’ll need to dive deep into a full degree program.
At the same time, you might need exactly the skillset that comes with a full organizational leadership education. If you’re starting a new technology business or ascending the ranks of a big engineering department, you don’t want to short your OL training.
These are the situations where earning dual degrees in both fields makes a lot of sense. Many schools support dual organizational leadership and technology programs. While you’ll double your course-load to fit in the required classes for both majors, you can at least fulfill more general requirements in on shot. It’s not an easy path, but no one ever said leadership was going to be a cakewalk.
Exploring the Curriculum Required for Organizational Leadership Training in Technology
Most of these degrees put together a fascinating blend of coursework that takes the bedrock principles of organizational leadership and mashes them up with the fast-paced needs of technology gurus.
That will include classes in subjects such as:
Organizational Leadership Foundations and Team Leadership
Both technology and organizational leadership may be the hot new topics in the industry, but both have deep roots. You’ll get coursework that gives you both the theory and practice of leadership through the ages, backed by case studies and discussion over what lessons can be learned from both successful and failed leadership efforts.
Innovation and Strategy in the Technology Industry
More than in just about any other industry, technology leaders must innovate. Developing the right strategy for your sector, team, and time is critical. The right ideas attract the best players and keep them working late and strong. You’ll learn to analyze strategic innovation in the tech sector and develop your own concepts for success.
Change and Conflict Management
Change is technology’s first, middle, and last name. If you’re in tech and you’re not changing, you’re failing. So OL courses in helping manage companies through change and in dealing with the inevitable conflict are a must-have for technology executives.
Diversity and Culture
In technology, talent is where you find it. Walk into the offices of any major technology company and you’re going to see a rainbow of skin colors, hear half a dozen different languages, and spot some haircuts that you may never have seen before. There’s no benefit to conformity when you need the best Python programmer in the business to get your product out the door. Coursework in cultural sensitivity and supporting diverse workforces will help you make it happen.
Analytics and Assessment
It’s no surprise that leaders in technology companies lean heavily on technology itself to help them develop a big picture view of progress and capabilities. You’ll learn how data science and quantitative analytics tools can help you keep tabs on even big, globally distributed technology companies, and pinpoint problems and star players early on.
Organizational Behavior and Culture
All those pinball machines and free drinks are part of a recognizable workplace culture in technology. It’s just one way to help set a tone of creativity, acceptance, and drive in your organization. Classes in culture and social behavior in organizational structures will help you dig beneath the superficial and understand what techniques are in play to help you motivate and inspire technology staff to their best.
Concentrations Tailor Your Organizational Leadership Studies To Specific Technology Fields
Technology today isn’t just one field of specialization; it’s dozens, each with their own highly technical details to master in terms of both science and markets. A command of consumer VR technology requires knowledge of details in fields like miniaturized batteries and ray tracing. Developing self-driving cars will take you into the world of LIDAR and machine learning.
Neither technology nor leadership are fields you can just pick up on the fly.
OL degrees are available with plenty of different specialization areas that can pay dividends in a technology leadership career. In fact, you can find tech-focused OL programs with sub-concentrations in some of these areas and more:
Building Out Your Expertise in Leadership and Technology With Elective Options
No matter what concentration you choose, you can also use elective coursework to round out your knowledge. You can also roll your own kind of concentration by picking the right selection of electives, tailored specifically toward your own goals and needs.
Some common elective classes available in tech-oriented OL programs include:
Of course, assuming you are attending a school with a strong computer science department, you also have a wide selection of very specific tech courses to choose from. Everything from mastering a programming language to learning the intricacies of user interface design are on the table to help you develop the expertise you need to command respect in your organization.
Choosing the Right School for Both Technological and Organizational Leadership Education
You’ll face two basic choices when exploring organizational leadership programs for technology careers.
OL is a common major at business schools, which sometimes offer it with a technology concentration. The basic skills and competencies will revolve around essential features of management and business administration, however.
More and more technology departments and colleges are offering OL majors. These will have stronger and more engineering-oriented technology courses, with the business training usually offered with a tech perspective.
In both cases, you’ll want to check out their essential features and resources. Quality comes from features like:
While you should do a lot of this research yourself, you can also get a good idea of the overall quality of any business school offering organizational leadership training by seeing if they have earned specialty accreditation from one of the three bodies that offer it in the United States:
- IACBE (International Accreditation Council for Business Education)
- ACBSP (Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs)
- AACSB (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business)
These organizations are plugged in to the American business community and set their standards for academic and administrative excellence in business education based on community expectations. So when you pick a school that has earned their stamp of approval, you know your degree will mean something when you hit the job market.
What Will It Cost To Earn an Organizational Leadership Degree With a Technology Focus?
Technology is an industry where you can make a lot of money fast, particularly in leadership roles. But it takes money to make money, and that will start with paying for a strong tech leadership education.
There is a wide band of potential costs depending both on your degree level and the school you choose to study at. The National Center for Education Statistics tracks the averages for college tuition and fees for different types of degrees and schools nationally. For 2021, the median rates for one year of attendance for public and private colleges at both the undergraduate and graduate levels were:
- Private Universities
- Undergraduate – $32,835
- Graduate – $26,597
- Public Universities
- Undergraduate – $9,375
- Graduate – $12,410
Of course, you won’t get away with just paying for tuition and fees; room and board and various books and supplies will also enter the equation. And you will also have to consider your opportunity costs… time spent in the classroom but not at work, the necessity of relocating if you decide to apply to schools far from home.
Online Organizational Leadership Programs Make Adding Skills Easy
One great option to avoid many of those additional costs for an organizational leadership program in technology today is to make use of technology itself. More and more schools are offering organizational leadership programs at all levels entirely online.
Remote education isn’t new, but it’s hotter than ever today. With better video conferencing, streaming, chat, and study resources available, you can get a seamless education that is as good or better than a traditional classroom format. And you can get it without ever leaving your own home.
The asynchronous setup of many of these programs also opens up lifestyle possibilities that don’t exist in traditional settings. Because coursework can be completed not just anywhere, but also at any time, you can flex your studies around to different times in a busy day. That makes it possible to continue to hold down a job while you go to school, or to meet family commitments.
Technology Jobs Require Leaders in Every Industry and Specialization
Technology has infused every sector in every industry today. Even the most mainstream of organizations has an IT department. And field-specific technology is changing the design, development, and manufacturing of just about every kind of product right down to the production floor.
This is all to say that you won’t have any trouble landing top jobs with a technology-focused organizational leadership degree in pretty much any industry you choose.
Tech jobs can include titles like:
But even these roles can look considerably different from industry to industry. And executives in charge of those teams will have very different tasks when it comes to the day-to-day management and coordination of technologists.
The real connection for leaders in any of these fields, and in any kind of specialization, is the need to combine a high-level understanding of the role of their product and the details of the technology with big-picture social, cultural, and industry trends involved.
Technology Leadership Professionals Command Top Salaries
Of course, you can’t talk about tech jobs, particularly senior leadership positions, without talking about the big paychecks that come with them. The Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks salary data for all the above positions, calculating both upper and lower bounds that vary based on experience and education.
Leadership roles typically command the highest compensation. In the case of these positions, that means the top ten percent of the profession. For 2021, those numbers were:
For top executives, the equation is a bit different. The median salary for those jobs across all industries is $98,890. But in the tech sector, designated as professional, scientific, and technical services, chief executives had a median salary that blew the top off the scales at BLS: more than $208,000 per year. General and operations managers are similarly way above the median, bringing in $127,110 on average.
Even those numbers undersell the real potential earnings in tech. Many executives enjoy big stock grants, bonuses, and incredible benefits packages. With a hot company creating technology that is truly transformative, multi-million dollar compensation is common.
You don’t have to be aiming for big money to want to be a technological leader. Linus Torvalds wasn’t trying to get rich when he created Linux. But earning a degree in organizational leadership can help you out in technology whether you want to be a billionaire or just want to change the world… or both.
2021 US Bureau of Labor Statistics salary and employment figures for Computer and Information Technology Occupations and Top Executives reflect national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed December 2022.