Among C-level executives, the CIO role arguably has the most delicate balance to master between the strategic and the operational. According to professor Hayagreeva Rao of Stanford University's Graduate School of Business, lumping strategy and operations in one job in the first place may be a fundamental flaw in the design of a job itself.
In his column in October's Harvard Business Review, he notes that people "who can do both [strategy and operations] are exceptionally rare" because the two types of responsibility are so different and usually require totally different, opposite, personalities. A better approach to designing leadership roles is to split the two areas of responsibility. Rao points to, of all things, 17th-century pirates as an example where such a separation was notably effective: there was a captain who carried strategic responsibility ("star" tasks) while a quartermaster general was in charge of operational (or "guardian") activities.
In modern corporations, he writes, you see this split in these areas of responsibilities in the CEO and the COO, but it's rare lower in the organization.
The CIO in particular might benefit from a close relationship with an operations-oriented lieutenant in IT. Who is your second in command in IT? Do you think you're making the most of that partnership? It might be worth contemplating, since all C-level executives jostle for prestige in the C-suite. Having a right-hand executive could be a CIO's valuable tool in gaining recognition as a key member of the company's strategic team.
Think about this also if you're looking to hire a senior IT executive you can rely on. As Rao writes, "Bundle star and guardian tasks at your peril."