To be sure, CIOs should have a good understanding about technology and strong business acumen in order to be successful in their roles. But to truly be an effective leader, CIOs must have solid people skills, communicate well and be great at developing partnerships with employees, business peers and other constituents, according to the authors of a new book on the topic.
In The CIO Edge: Seven Leadership Skills You Need to Drive Results (Harvard Business Review Press, Nov. 2010, $29.95), co-authors Graham Waller (Vice President and Executive Partner with Gartner Executive Programs), George Hallenbeck (Director, Intellectual Property Development, Korn/Ferry Leadership) and Karen Rubenstrunk (formerly with Korn/Ferry's CIO practice) examine the key talents CIOs require and how those can be developed.
Central to all of this is a CIO's ability to lead, inspire, manage and develop people. "Focusing on leadership and people skills - the 'soft' things that many CIOs tend to minimize 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 Waller in a press release promoting the book.
Following three years of research, the authors determined that high-performance CIOs distinguish themselves by "mastering" the following seven skills and behavioral traits, as cited in the press release:
•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.
•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.
•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 organization.
•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.
•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.
•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.
•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 organization--it will be their lasting legacy.
One could say that most if not all of these traits could be applied to any type of leader - CIO, CEO, or others. Particularly the ability to lead and inspire people.
But there are certain nuances to the role of the CIO that lend themselves to these traits, such as the characteristics cited in the third and fourth skills which involve a willingness to abdicate control and to spend a great deal of energy building partnerships. For as Waller and others have written about previously, the CIO is uniquely positioned to serve as a change agent within their organization, given their unique horizontal view of how various organizational functions interoperate. As such, the ability to build partnerships with key constituents and to know when to relinquish control is critical.
What do you think? Do these seven leadership skills embody the effective CIO? Or are there other facets to this?