Leadership experience outweighs technical proficiency as the best skill for IT managers to possess, according to an annual recruitment survey.

Employers are struggling to find and recruit IT managers and senior IT staff due to a lack of leadership skills and high salary demands, a survey of 120 of the UK's most senior technology professionals has revealed.

The annual survey, conducted by recruitment firm Hays IT, found most employers (54 percent) have difficulty finding IT managers that can communicate with non-technical colleagues. Whilst 40 percent of respondents agreed it is challenging to find an IT leader that can apply IT strategy to create business benefits.

IT leaders also found it hard to recruit people with strong leadership skills (35 percent), business acumen (34 percent) and strategic focus (32 percent).

The survey showed the importance of softer skills. Some 48 percent of respondents agreed that a person with strong "people skills" could get away with weaker "technical skills", and 48 percent said a balance of both skillsets would be ideal. But only 6 percent felt that technical skills could compensate for poor people skills.

When it comes to recruiting senior IT management, business awareness (47 percent), strong leadership (46 percent) and salary demands (46 percent) are the three biggest obstacles facing organisations. Salary demands are also the biggest hurdle to placing the right candidate at the offer stage of the hiring process, Hays said.

On a positive note, 26 percent of employers were currently recruiting IT staff and more than half were looking to do so within the next six months.

Overall, the IT department is positively perceived within the business, survey respondents said. Most companies (more than three-quarters) felt the IT department is influential on leading business transformation. IT was perceived to be of great strategic importance to the business and is most-often commercially engaged.