Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Digital CIO’s Profiles, Personas, and Personalities

The digital CIOs have to wear the different color of hats and master multiple leadership personas and management roles effortlessly.
Compared to other CxO positions, the CIO role is considerably new with about three decades of history. But the contemporary CIO is one of the most sophisticated leadership roles in modern businesses. Due to disruptive nature of technologies and exponential growth of information, IT leadership role also has to be continually reimagined, refined, refreshed and reenergized. The CIO is no longer just a glorified geek, but a business savvy strategist and a transformational digital leader. Great CIOs have multiple personas, varying personalities, and impressive leadership profiles.

Raise the profile of digital CIOs: The digital CIOs is the highly complex executive role to manage one of the most crucial business assets - Information and Technology. It is not sufficient to only keep the light on, and the digital CIO shouldn’t be perceived as the stereotypical IT manager only. Contemporary CIOs need to make leadership influence on the organization from board level down to the business unit and within the IT organization because they are in the unique position to oversee the underlying organizational processes and build differentiated business competency. Regardless of which industry or the nature of organization you are in, the digital CIO is a strategic business leader first, and a tactical IT manager the second. It is important to raise the profile of digital CIOs because forward-looking organizations empower their IT leaders to drive changes and lead the digital transformation. IT is the linchpin to weave all necessary business elements into the differentiated business competency. Visionary CIOs must look at where the business is today and where it will be in five to ten years and ensure that information & technology can enable that vision going forward. CIOs must look at the future of business from both strategic planning and technology envisioning lens, master the art of creating unique and differentiating value from the pile of commoditized technologies. Digital CIOs today should be business generalists with T-shaped IT knowledge, speak both 'business' and 'technology' dialects fluently, translate from one to the other seamlessly without “lost in translation.” The high-profile digital CIOs are multi-dimensional thinkers and versatile business executives, having the right blend of leadership skill, business acumen, technical expertise, and digital fluency.

The multiple personas of digital CIOs: The persona can be seen as the “public relations” part of the digital CIO that allow them to interact socially in a variety of situations with relative ease. Contemporary CIOs are expected to play multiple personas and need to wear many hats to lead effectively. Back to basic, CIOs are “Chief Information Officers,” who take charge of one of the most invaluable business assets - information. Ideally, CIOs are “Chief Innovation Officers” who are expected to constantly propose new ideas and challenging the status quo. Go deeper, CIOs are “Chief Insight Officers,” who can provide information-based insightful advice for business executive peers and corporate board on how information brings the business growth opportunities and how new technologies can enhance the creation or improvement of products and services while balancing the technical and business risks. CIOs also need to become ‘Chief Interaction Officer’ who must be far more diplomatic and build the solid business relationship across the digital ecosystem. In practice, CIOs are “Chief Improvement Officers” who lead IT to continue removing the weeds, optimizing business capability and capacity and improving organizational maturity. Follow the trend, the CIOs are “Chief Intrapreneur Officer” who are able to run IT as a software startup and the business in the business. For bridging the IT-business gap, CIOs are “Chief Interpretation Officers” who are fluent in both business language and IT terminology to ensure a seamless cross-functional communication. On leadership, CIOs are “Chief Influence Officers” who need to continually practice leadership influence.

The CIO’s personality is varying: There are introvert CIOs and extrovert CIOs; there are systematic thinking CIOs, but also intuitive CIOs. In fact, many CIOs have paradoxical personality traits which allow them to lead the department with the balanced mindset, activities, and speed so that every level of the organization has great working relationships with the IT team. Good personality testing covers critical thinking, problem-solving, pressure handling, creativity, innovation, inventiveness, and communication, etc., skills. However, the personality test cannot measure tenacity and insight. It is also difficult to measure transferable skills and cross-industry innovation ability, especially when there is a natural bias to select exactly what you need today (status quo) vs. skills needed to change for the better tomorrow. Consider the personality test more of a stereotype tool to assess the psychological preferences in how CIOs would perceive the digital ecosystem and their thought processes and mental strength to make decisions. The strong CIOs can succeed in high-pressure situations and first-time evolution. The important thing is that CIOs as the top leadership role, must have a strong mindset, a unique personality, and a clear idea of what needs to be done, yet creative enough to not hold the company back from growth. Regardless which personality they have, digital CIOs need to be both transformational and situational, both innovative and tactical, both business savvy and technology insightful, both communication effective and operation efficient.

Modern organizations have their own sophistication with silo functions, the sea of information, and the pool of talents. CIO is an inherently cross-functional role, to bridge the business and IT; the data and insight, the business’s today and tomorrow. The digital CIOs have to wear different personas and master multiple leadership and management roles effortlessly. They need to lead at the strategic level for conducting a complex digital orchestra; they should be handy managers to plumbing information and keep it flow smoothly; they also have to be like the diligent gardeners, to build a unique IT landscape via tuning technology, removing waste, nurturing culture, and empower people.  


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