Friday, December 23, 2016

The Nature and Nurture of Digital CIOs

The digital CIOs’ effectiveness is based on their leadership authenticity (nature) and qualification (nurture). 

Due to changing nature of technology and multifaceted impact of modern IT organization, the CIO is perhaps one of the most sophisticated leadership roles in the digital transformation. The role of the Chief Information Officer is a very tricky one and hard to fill. The problem is heavily masked because the position is often filled with the wrong person. Contemporary CIOs are expected to play multiple personas; besides being the tactical IT manager, leadership is considered the top attribute for CIOs. So are digital CIOs nature or nurtured? What are the most important attributes of IT leadership, and how can they best be attained?

Personality is nature, but skills are nurtured: Either you are introvert, extrovert or ambivert, the digital CIO today needs to be a dynamic person with open, growth and complexity mindset, have high ability to handle personal attributes, manage impressions, communicate to suite situations so as to make things happen. Good personality/skills testing covers critical thinking, problem-solving, pressure handling, creativity, innovation, inventiveness, and communications. There is very little concrete evidence for predicting business success via personality tests and even less for evidence that people fit neatly into any of the hundreds of potential categories out there. Even personality is nature, the thinking and leadership capability can be developed if you have a growth mindset. CIOs need to build hardcore expertise and develop skills beyond technology, based on the understanding of their particular organization's current and potential corporate structure, senior management style, and strategic plan. CIOs need to develop a broad skillset beyond technology. CIOs are specialized generalists as the "T-shaped" talent – with exposure to all the different business areas. only a few other executives have the opportunity to develop such a deep understanding of the wider business. Coupled with the ability to understand, and translate “tech-talk.” They can translate from one conversation to the other seamlessly. Among other skills, they need strong business orientation and a proven ability to bring the benefits of IT to solve business issues.


Creativity and cognitive ability are both nature and nurtured: Although that most of IT operations involve analytical and logical work, some argue it is the creative mind better suited for top leadership. A digital CIO as “Chief Intrapreneur Officer” would keep everyone involved and foster an environment of creative thinking and critical thinking, to run IT as a software startup. Digital CIOs need to think of new and uncommon ways how IT can contribute to the corporation and help the business to make right strategy with a growth mindset. Good intrapreneur-leaders explain the big “WHYs” clearly, to articulate the strategic rationale behind the venture, as more often than not, intrapreneurship is about balancing innovation with other organizational priorities. It presents a possibly even greater challenge and reward. The CIO needs to be able to recognize areas of deficiencies and inefficiencies, then ask the question 'How can we...?' The heart of entrepreneurship is about changes, and organizations no matter large or small, all face the unprecedented change, uncertainty, and accelerated business dynamic, intrapreneur leaders are not only self-motivated, but also motivate teams to cultivate change capabilities, and continue to improve. Besides creativity, digital CIO needs to have varying thinking skills and cognitive capabilities such as
- Critical thinking and analytical reasoning
- Complex problem solving and analysis
- Application of knowledge and skills in real-world settings
- Location, organization, and evaluation of information from multiple sources


The CIO’s “DNA” is nature, but the leadership quality is nurtured: The CIOs’ leadership authenticity is based on their “DNA” in nature. However, the qualification of digital IT leadership can only be achieved via the combination of character, learning agility, life experiences, knowledge, and multifaceted or recombinant professional capabilities. The CIO should have both broad business acumen and deep technical expertise as well, with the capability to speak both dialects fluently. The CIO has to be flexible, adaptable, and able to adjust the lingo to suit the audience; sometimes soften it up and drop the technical jargon, other times diving into the bits and bytes level. As a top business leader, the CIO needs to understand their environment and playing field to develop a plan to harness the opportunities you identified. The CIO does not need to be technically directly involved, but a technical background is good to have to be able to manage the team. The team needs to be able to trust the CIO and the CIO needs to understand them intellectually to be able to manage them. To be the most effective leader, you need to display the hard tech skills and knowledge, but more importantly, you need to be welcomed and invited to the table, be able to convey the technological vision, listen and translate business needs (what's said, and what's not) into actionable states. It is about striking a balance of leadership, management, and technical expertise/IT skills.


The digital CIOs’ effectiveness is based on their leadership authenticity (nature) and qualification (nurture). At today’s hyper-connected, over-complex world, digital CIOs need to have both business acumen and technological vision, but more importantly, they need to have a growth mindset with a strong leadership brand to make influence via expertises in their domains and digital ecosystem.

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