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7 leadership skills to become successful CIOs

Last updated on: November 11, 2010 08:40 IST

7 leadership skills to become successful CIOs

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What makes a successful chief information officer? CIOs must have the right leadership skills in place to deliver on heightened expectations, according to Gartner, Inc. and Korn/Ferry.

"Focusing on leadership and people skills - the 'soft' things that many CIOs tend to minimise in their quest to keep up with their day-to-day responsibilities of managing IT - is in fact the biggest determinate of their success, or failure," says Graham Waller, vice president of Gartner Executive Programs.

IT executives who have the best relationships and can earn 'followership', not only with their employees, but more importantly with their business partners within and outside the organisation, tend to make the most effective business technology executives.

In the recently published book 'The CIO Edge Seven Leadership Skills You Need To Drive Results', Graham Waller; George Hallenbeck director, Korn/Ferry Leadership and Talent Consulting; and Karen Rubenstrunk, formerly with Korn/Ferry's CIO practice, examine the key skills CIOs need and how to develop them.

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Image: Graham Waller's book.

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7 leadership skills to become successful CIOs

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1. Commit to leadership first and everything else second

Gartner and Korn/Ferry's research reveals that the highest performing CIOs are effective because they embrace the idea that everything they need to accomplish will be achieved through people, by people, and with people.

They don't pay lip service to that idea. They live it. They lead.

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Image: CIOs are leaders.

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7 leadership skills to become successful CIOs

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2. Lead differently than you think

A high-performing CIO is an incredibly complex and creative thinker.

Yet when the time comes to lead, they don't rely on their superior 'smarts' and analytical skills to come up with the best possible solution.

They act collaboratively.

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3. Embrace your softer side

Effective CIOs manage the paradox of gaining more influence by letting go of control and allowing themselves to be vulnerable.

In turn, that vulnerability enables them to create deep, personal connections - connections that provide the ability to inspire people both inside and outside their organisation.

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Image: CIOs build relationships.

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4. Forge the right relationships to drive the right results
 
This skill may not be surprising.

High performing CIOs spend a greater percentage of their time and energy managing relationships that exist sideways: with internal peers, external suppliers, and customers.

They purposely invest in horizontal relationships which form the foundation to drive extraordinary results.

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7 leadership skills to become successful CIOs

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5. Master communication

The best CIOs know that their colleagues - especially the people who work for them - are always watching.

These executives understand they are always on stage.

They take advantage of that situation by constantly reiterating core messages and values.

Through their focus on clarity, consistency, authenticity, and passion, they make sure their message is not only understood but also felt.

They want to communicate a feeling that compels people to take the right actions.

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Image: CIOs, great communicators.

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6. Inspire others

In exchange for a regular paycheck, most people will give an adequate performance.

But they will only give their best work if they believe they are involved in something greater than themselves.

The best CIOs provide a compelling vision that connects people to how their enterprise wins in the marketplace and that their contributions are meaningful and valued.

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7. Build people, not systems

By developing people all around them, these CIOs increase their capability and capacity to deliver results.

They also know that leaving behind the next generation of leaders is the best thing they can do for the organisation it will be their lasting legacy.

The three authors warned CIOs that mastering soft skills can never be a replacement for the key management aspects of the job.

It is instead a powerful enabler and an amplifying force that allows individuals to exceed expectations and maximise the value from IT.

"All CIOs must deliver results. What distinguishes the best is how they do it: through people, by people, and with people," Mr Waller said.


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