Wednesday, January 23, 2019

The Digital CIO’s Leadership Magnetism

The digital CIO’s magnetism is based on their sharp vision, influential voice, strong character, interdisciplinary knowledge, and intellectual empathy.

The digital CIO is the top leadership role, how CIOs provide the appropriate leadership and how they convey to leverage IT for the business value depends on their vision, leadership strength, and style. A highly influential leader has magnetism. More specifically, what’s the CIO’s leadership magnetism to become the “Chief Influence Officer” -to make leadership influence at the scope of the entire business or even the industry?

Influence the influencers: The digital CIO is in the unique position to not only ensure he/she communicates with empathy but also to streamline the organization’s digital communication channel and delivery. CIOs are able to recognize the key influencers in the organization, understand what and who they are, build relationships at that level, establish and maintain effective formal and informal conversations with business influencers, help to influence and drive change in those areas, “sell” the business value at the boardroom and C-level, get the business sponsorship and have fair peer to peer communication and collaboration. Charismatic leaders with magnetism have the strength to persuade others, not always be oratory or rhetoric, but make an influence on others’ heart or strike people’s mind. The leadership magnetism goes beyond style; it well mixes the leadership substances such as vision and purpose with effective digital leadership styles such as participation, coaching or delegation. Digital CIO should master audience tailored business conversations because different stakeholders of the business have different concerns about IT for meeting their needs. They are like the diplomat of the company, able to communicate via business terms, simplistic fashion, and unique insight, to spark a win-win situation and become "Chief Influence Officer" in their organization.

Evolve business: The digital transformation of IT is reaching the inflection point when IT leaders are invited to the big table and IT is perceived as a trusted business partner and change agent. The digital CIOs have both business acumen and technological vision to develop their leadership magnetism in order to evolve business, drive changes and run IT for getting digital ready. IT is neither an order taker nor a controller only, IT needs to become a trustful business partner. To proactively drive digitalization, the CIO has to look forward and actively position the business in the right place to take full advantage of opportunities. IT management is part of the business management which is essentially a continuous process to solve business problems big or small. Every IT initiative is to solve a business problem. The business is usually involved if it is a business application. Once you show and demonstrate to the other CxOs that you understand the business, they will respect you and give you authority, power, and influence in executive decision-making. Refreshing IT leadership is to keep the digital tempo for creating the business synergy and accelerating digital transformation. The CIO’s leadership magnetism is based on their in-depth understanding of the business and management proficiency.

Enchant customers: IT has both internal and external customers. IT leadership magnetism is based on how well IT can promote and deliver premium products, services or solutions to enchant customers. Running IT as a business means IT understands what’s the customers’ true need, helps to solve their problems, makes their life better, and thus, improves IT maturity as well. IT needs to involve the users by giving them active roles on the new business initiative, make them feel important, train them on the new products or services, appreciate and reward them, and then, IT becomes more business driven, not just technology-oriented. To move IT up to the next level of organizational maturity, IT needs to shift from IT-business alignment to IT-customer alignment, as well as IT-business engagement. Deploy a range of technologies and deliver a series of products or services that focus on improving customer experience, making the investment to deliver products or services which more closely meet customers’ needs, you are doing so to a greater extent than your competitors, you are gaining the competitive business advantage.

Empower employees: High mature CIOs with leadership magnetism are usually thought leaders, who make influence through their breadth of business knowledge and the depth of IT insight. Then, empower and engage employees via intellectual empathy, not via command and control. Digital business leaders develop strategies that are integrated across the employee lifecycle and have the right impact on employees who are engaged both rationally (systems and processes) and emotionally (mindsets, attitudes, and behaviors). IT knowledge cycle has been shortened due to the changing nature of technology and the overwhelming growth of information. The digital potential of IT cannot be unleashed until employees are empowered and talent gets strengthened by putting people in the right position with the right capability to make the right decisions and do the right things. Provide opportunities for IT staff to thrive and as long as the roles of the functions remain clear, empower people to get on and do what they do best in the way that they do it best. Focus on which delivers the opportunity for increased productivity, greater efficiency, better engagement, and innovation. Whether IT can attract the brightest talent or not also depends on the IT leadership magnetism and how effectively the CIO is branding his/her organization as a contributor to the corporation and society as a whole.

Engage vendors: The digital era upon us is about people and options. Due to the unprecedented convenience brought by digital technologies and IT consumerization trends, customers become more selective about the products or services they need or use. Thus, IT has to build up a strong partnership, to not just provide standardized services, but do more with innovation. Strategically speaking, what businesses and customers expect from IT is also about what IT expects from the vendors, it's more about the speed, scale, value, and choices. The relationship between the vendor and IT is echoed often, it's not always just the IT and vendor that are working towards a solution. A good IT vendor focuses on processes, and there's always an opportunity for business improvement. The magnetic IT leaders can develop the good vendor relationship and manage the unholy business-IT-vendor trilogy skillfully. They understand what IT should develop in house to build differentiated business competency, and what IT can buy from vendors to speed up. The next generation of IT vendor relationship is about how to well manage the mixed bag of diversified vendors, multi-faceted partnerships, co-ownership of ventures and companies, contracting, etc, to deliver innovative solutions and accelerate business speed.

The digital CIO’s leadership magnetism is based on their distinctive vision, unique voice, strong character, interdisciplinary knowledge, and intellectual empathy. What determines the level of the CIO leadership influence is the impact he/she has made on others, and hence, his/her reputation. CIOs need to present their leadership authenticity, strengthen their leadership strength, practice the digital management philosophy they believe in, and tailor their own leadership and management style to improve IT performance and maturity.


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