From average to great is a leadership journey, it takes confidence, vision, passion, problem-solving skills, and teamwork to match up.
Modern CIOs play different roles and have multiple personas. There is a distinct difference between a great CIO and an average CIO in terms of identifying and implementing competitive advantages and being a great leader. What are those major traits and how to leapfrog IT leadership from average to great?
Confidence: Confidence is a necessary attribute - for all leaders but especially in IT. It is common that business colleagues at the top table are skeptical about IT, feel they have been let down too often etc., so for the CIO to be effective, it is important that she/he both projects confidence and inspires it in those she/he works with. All humans make mistakes, but a confident person is able to admit they were wrong and learn from it. Confidence is not equal to ego or self-centered: Ego is actually another major stumbling block... Being confident means you know who you are, you limitation and what you don't know, so you convey the leadership messages in a consistent way. If you feel you always need to be the smartest one in the room, as an IT leader, you're missing out. However, many IT Executives have traits such as fear of change, not being open to hearing about new technologies, having an ego (self-centered). To be truly great, you have to be confident in your abilities. Attitude, and be confident to help seek out talent (internal & externally) better than themselves at specific activities (and more knowledgeable in specific domains) to help make positive changes to the company.
Technological vision & Problem-Solving skills: In-depth understand both technology and business, have a clear technological vision, and have genuine empathy with the users of technology. With a clear vision, passion follows. In order to drastically change IT landscape, you must have passion and drive at the core along with these qualities--Genuinely curious about Information. A great CIO should be able to not just understand business objectives and priorities, but also be able to break these down and cascade them downstream to his/her team in an IT-comprehensive format. It’s about having problem-solving skills and technological understanding that give you the ability to invent new ways to create or manage information effectively to drive business growth. It is in determining what information you need to make a difference, what data and what process is necessary to instrument that information and putting the data capture and information instrument processes in place. The common pitfall for IT leader is to fail to make the connection between IT and the business, lack the cognizance of how it will actually impact the company's top line and bottom line growth and, therefore, cannot be the enabler that companies need.
Talent Management: The ability to inspire others to a shared vision; the ability to inspire, build and maintain the trust and confidence of those great hires is paramount to the continued success of the organization and the CxO's brand and impact. You can have all the ability and confidence in the world, but if your team is not inspired and does not trust you and believe in your vision! there will be challenging times on the road ahead for sure. A great leader is also a culture master, since it is critical for building a culture of innovation due to the changing nature of technology, as being content with a status quo culture will significantly limit the company's ability to become great. Failure to seek talented individuals, new ideas and advancement technologies simply leave your company at the starting gates while your biggest competitors are most likely running full speed ahead giving them a significant competitive advantage.
The key to being "great" is possessing, or working towards developing all such three traits. Those that master all three rise to the top of their profession and are truly the engines that drive their company forward and upwards.