Saturday, February 4, 2017

Which qualities, technical as well as leadership skills, are true differentiators to become a unique CIO

Being visionary, creative, and experimental.

IT plays a more critical role in driving changes and leading digital transformation, thus, the bar of CIO leadership is also raised for adapting to the faster pace of changes and continuous digital disruptions. It is not sufficient to be just a tactical manager to keep the lights on, in fact, today’s IT leaders should have the multi-faceted personas, multilayered professional capabilities, and the multitude of leadership qualities and skill set in order to lead seamlessly. But more specifically, which qualities, technical as well as leadership skills, are true differentiators to become a unique CIO.


Being inquisitive, insightful and learning agile: Most of the organizations still consider IT as a commodity service and is normally treated as the cost center. There is a reluctance to involve IT leaders in business strategies to consider digital/technical resources for quick and desired results. It sets the limit to unleash IT potential and also maximize the entire business’s potential. Because nowadays, there’s rarely any updated products or services without IT ingredient in it, IT is permeating into every corner of the business, IT is the backbone of the organization; and IT is the digital brain to collect, process and retrieve information in helping the organization "run, grow and transform," with high responsivity and high intelligence. Hence, the CIO as IT leader has to reach out horizontally to their business peer, be inquisitive to ask tough and thought-provoking questions for understanding the business as well as being understood; being insightful to identify the real business issues and think in the longer term, in order to become the trusted business advisors. CIO leaders also need to be learning agile, to learn from the business peers, staff, customers, as well as business partners, brainstorm the better way doing things, share IT innovation, the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats present within IT, plan and take actions to drive the outcomes to meet the business goals. These interactions force a close collaboration and better understanding of the business as well as the underlying functions to make a holistic influence across the business ecosystem.


Being informative, persuasive, and empathetic: The stereotypical CIOs are often perceived as technical geeks who spoke the completely different language from the business, and focus on HOW to get things done, not paying enough attention to WHY and WHAT - to figure out doing right things before doing things right. Because traditional CIOs come up through the ranks on the technical side and think differently than the other executives. In many ways, they speak a different language with the different way of thinking. Hence, being a unique CIO with differentiated competency means that the IT leader should close leadership and communication gaps via their niche skills. Ineffective communication happens when a CIO has one way of thinking and other executives think in a different way. Being informative and always bring the new perspective to the table; being persuasive via advocating the value of IT and promoting IT via the outside-in business point of view; being empathetic to enhance mutual understanding. The question is not only how to deliver the message but also what message to deliver. CIOs must understand issues or opportunities they should deliver a message to the colleagues on C-level and convince them to support their ideas, with the goal to enforce communication and improve leadership effectiveness.


Being visionary, creative, and experimental: Digital is the age of innovation, it is particularly important for practicing innovative IT leadership because more often than not, technology is the disruptive force of digital innovation, and the information is the gold mine to discover the next business opportunity. Hence, digital CIOs need to be creative enough to dream bigger for envisioning the future of the business and “sell the dream” via creative communication; bold enough to take the adventure, but also logical enough to implement it, guide the team and make it happen. Digital is the age of options, it provides the opportunity to think the new way to do things, so it forces IT leaders to get really creative on how they architect and implement change and be experimental to try new things, to ensuring IT is strategically positioned to be ahead of where the business is moving next. Creativity contributes to the growth strategy, progression; creativity contributes to an alternative solution to a problem, and creativity is appreciated by the end customers to improve customer satisfaction. Thus, creativity as an important part of our future and civilization, without it, there will be no technology and modern society.


CIOs should strengthen their leadership strength, apply their leadership philosophy, build the set of differentiated professional capabilities and skill set, enforce their unique styles in order to lead effortlessly. The forward-thinking companies need to empower their CIOs, and improve IT maturity is the two-way effort. In other words, the CXOs and the board members must empower their CIOs and enable IT to ensure its success and its positive impact on the organization's performance for reaching the new horizon and opening the new chapter of digital innovation.


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