Contemporary digital CIOs wear multiple hats, play different roles with 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 modern CIOs’ digital profile, and how can they improve leadership effectiveness and shift their role from transactional managers to transformational leaders?
Great CIOs are technological visionaries: A great CIO has a clear technological vision of IT strategy as an integral element of the business strategy based on the existing and the future business needs, forecasting and adapting the business so it continues to thrive. Understanding business needs is the key success factor for the CIO because designing and implementing IT solutions that accommodate existing and future business and technology changes is a real challenge. Great CIOs need to be insightful communicators as well, not only convey the vision but also be able to inspire the team, executive peers to perceive the future of IT, the future of business and the future of leadership as well. Great CIOs should be able to translate the business needs from the business units into technological goals and long-term strategies that the IT teams can then provide solutions for. They needs to understand ROI -return on investment, depreciation, the total cost of ownership, the time value of money, and have a good grasp of how each business unit’s critical processes work, and how to improve the business performance or create new opportunities, not just implementing the state of the art technology from IT perspective, but drive business growth and accelerate digital transformation.
Great CIOs are essential business advisors: CIOs bridges the gap between these two domains - business and technology. A great CIO needs to provide expert advice and recommendations to the rest of the executive leadership. The honest justification for a recommendation to adopt new technologies or not as requested by executive leadership requires that the CIO has built a level of trust with the executive team first. Great CIOs need to engage with the business and provide measurable results. CIOs must understand the business and the role IT plays in it, knowing IT capabilities well helps him/her to better perform the job. Understanding the business and adding value beyond just IT makes a great CIO. Great CIOs are customer champions who always set priority to run IT as a business enabler to build solid business capabilities, in order to optimize customer experience and delight end customers as well.
A great CIO also needs to be a great mentor: The benefit of coaching style is to develop the employees in terms to make them real high performers. The coach/mentor style CIOs can show the team how to explore their own natural skill sets, talents, and strong sides, take into account their own objectives in line with working needs. CIO could also try to be the technology mentor for the organization’s executives, to clarify and demonstrate the business values of IT, the results of this effort is depending on the culture of the organization. In order to be the good mentor, CIOs have to become a continuous learner. Simply being an active member in forums and other collaborative networks with an ear and an eye to innovations and business benefits from learning and discussions. If CIOs exemplify learning agility, and also encourage those they guide to seek ongoing experience and knowledge, then you will certainly grow a team that can drive your organization to great heights, reduced costs and leaps in innovation and productivity etc. Most importantly, this leads to a great environment to work in and to build future CIOs that will also remain informed and prepared to share their learning.
Great CIOs are multi-dimensional thinkers and versatile digital leaders. It's about having the right blend of leadership skills, business knowledge and technical knowledge that makes the digital IT leaders. Technical knowledge of leadership is just one of the tools in your toolbox, and you need to keep them all sharp to work effectively. How you sharpen your tools is a personal choice. This is an issue of a mix of leadership and hands-on approach, a mix of macro and micro perspective, and a mix of inspiring innovation and setting the standard. Great CIOs are great leaders.