Communications of the Association for Information Systems


Technological discontinuities can fundamentally alter the competitive dynamics of sectors of the economy: IT can create opportunities for those who are able to transform themselves, while simultaneously putting others out of business. Leadership is a key determinant of the outcome of an IT-enabled transformation, but there is limited research on the role of leaders in responding to such disruptions. This article explores the role of the leader in a period of technological change through an extension of the theory of transformational leadership. We illustrate the extended theory through a commercial printer, EarthColor. The commercial printing industry is in a strategic transition, characterized by consolidation and increasing cost pressures that drive profit margins down. We discuss how IT is responsible for the changing rules of competition in this industry, as well as the transformation of printing from a craft-based profession to a digitized business, from a traditional manufacturing “production” industry to a digital information management business. The article documents the experiences of EarthColor and the leadership of its CEO who successfully navigated an industry upheaval precipitated by IT. We generalize the results of our research to our extension of transformational leadership theory that explicitly incorporates the demands of IT-enabled transformations.