Monday, September 28, 2020

Outstanding CIOs’ Leadership Traits and Qualities

An outstanding IT leader inspires, works closely with their executive peers to digest information, understands opportunities and threats, and builds the trustful relationship for leading business transformation proactively and progressively. 

Organizations large or small are on the journey of digital transformation with IT as the linchpin. Digital power is the combination of the power of knowledge, the power of information and technology, the power of people, and the power of creativity. The variety of modern IT technology and their rapid obsolescence assumes that IT has to continue evolving. Thus, contemporary IT leaders have to keep learning and develop their leadership competency. Here is a set of traits that differentiate outstanding CIOs from ordinary CIOs.

Openness: IT leaders are not just tactical managers to handle IT transactional activities, but the top leadership role to steer the business transformation and run IT as a trustful business partner. They are open-minded, show flexibility, breakdown outdated rules, refuse to be bound by constraints and limitations, and be skeptical about the conventional understanding of the problems so that they examine everything before advising it to others. Nowadays IT is like the “digital brain” of the company - being analytical to process information for diagnosing problems; as well as being innovative to solve business problems creatively.

Exploring emerging opportunities or pursuing possibilities is the hallmark of digital innovation. Because IT is in a unique position to oversee the business, open-minded IT leaders can envision the business future via a technological lens, absorb the new knowledge across the business functional boundary in order to connect wider dots and work out with new ideas to achieve their business value systematically.

Strategic foresight: For adapting to high business velocity, strategic planning is a “living process,” with regular evaluation, scanning, listening, revisiting, and potential course correction.IT strategy explicitly linked to corporate strategy through defined business initiatives, and it is an integral component of corporate strategy. Outstanding IT leaders are business strategists who can work with the business as the trustful partner, predict emerging technological trends or business opportunities, prevent potential risks, and help the organization build strategic competency based on the circumstances that will allow the highest probability of business success.

When CIOs lead as the business strategist, there are no "us vs. them" - no business-IT alignment issues, as IT is integral to the business. Forethoughtful companies cross sectors declare they are in the information management business, without analysis and understanding of the CIO, how does any executive direct the creation of a business strategy that is increasingly dependent on technology and competitive advantages that derive from the information. IT is the value-added delivery that makes the organization different and competitive. However, many organizations that get stuck at the low level of maturity are still reluctant to involve IT leaders in strategic planning processes, it sets the limit to unleash IT potential and also maximize the entire business’s potential.

Persuasiveness: The stereotypical CIOs are often perceived as technical geeks who spoke a completely different language from the business. Outstanding CIOs are outliers who have the interdisciplinary knowledge and up level communication skills to inspire, persuade, and amplify their leadership voice, develop situational wisdom and influential competency. They have creative communication skills to break down barriers and bridge the differences; they have empathy skills to tailor the business’s audience or understand the significant technique details from IT staff. They practice data support communication and have a unique and intellectual voice to improve IT leadership maturity.

In order to harness communication, start by identifying the barriers you think hinder effective collaboration and work on them diligently. Outstanding CIOs are inspiring ‘storytellers” who can help business customers or partners gain open perspectives on IT performance and potential, close perception, communication, and collaboration gaps between IT and business. They have their own transformation playbook to guide changes and transform the company’s underlying functions, processes, structures, cultures, and organization as a whole with adjusted digital speed.

Intrapreneurship: Nowadays, IT is often the disruptive force of business transformation. Creativity is the core of what makes IT strategic in any company, but it is critical that creativity is focused not on the technology but on how it can be used to advance strategic business goals. Practicing intrapreneurship in IT is to run IT as a business and “do more with innovation.” It starts with the outlier visionary digital leadership, build the innovative culture - the collective attitude to experiment with better ways to do things, and build innovation as the differentiated business capability.

Information & Technology is, in fact, the threshold to knit all-important business elements into cohesive business competencies. IT intrapreneurship is about discovering the new path for change and balancing innovation with other organizational priorities. The Intrapreneur CIO needs to be a dynamic person with vision, growth, and complexity mindset, with a high ability to envision digital trends, manage innovations, communicate to suit situations so as to craft strategies and make things happen. They are not only self-motivated but also motivate teams to cultivate change capabilities and continue to improve.

Systems Intelligence: When perceiving the dynamism in the business world, digital leaders today inevitably see connectivity and the possibility of change for business evolution. IT leaders with system intelligence can uncover patterns, understand interconnectivity, and see something that appears as dynamic and changing. From an information management perspective, the IT system is open so that information or energy flows in and out. They are continuously open to new information from the environment and circulate the information within the system will continuously change in response.

Complex business systems tend to be non-linear and thus hard to predict by humans. IT management also involves heavy engineering practices that require systematic thinking and step-wise problem-solving skills. Outstanding CIOs with system intelligence have both a bigger picture perspective and technical understanding, articulate clear messages on how IT can bridge the gap between strategy and execution, optimize organizational processes to develop organizational competency, and run a highly integrated business.

Coaching/Mentorship: Mentorship is about guiding, advising, interpreting, and influencing. Great leadership includes mentoring capability, and excellent mentorship is both art and science. The mentor style CIOs can show the team how to explore their own natural skill sets, talents, and strong sides, taking into account their own objectives in line with working needs and business goals. The mentor style CIOs care about the career goal of employees, encouraging people to work with them, not just for them. They have both interpersonal and intrapersonal communication skills to enforce their leadership influence and build an IT reputation as a talent magnet

Digital CIOs have self-awareness of cognitive, relational, and assertive actions they take on a day to day basis. By mentoring, they are showing that they value others, invest people, not just treat people as the cost only. To mentor well, they keep improving their own professional quality, show learning plasticity, continuously seek new challenges, and develop an effective mentoring process to run a true “learning organization.” When CIOs are positioned as a mentor to the business, they are at the right track of becoming “Chief Influence Officer.”

Variety: With blurred industrial territory and expanded business scope, digital CIOs need to facilitate a global IT team which are often distributed across the varying geographical locations in many large multinational organizations, to make sure IT is more shared, integrated, flexible, reliable, transparent and fast. IT teams have diverse talent and develop their set of best and next practices.Digital variety is a switch to turn on the innovation light bulb; it forces you to confront fresh ideas, the variety of points of view or ideas directly contribute to the business value in terms of engagement, productivity, and profitability.

To build highly innovative teams with coherent diversification, it’s important to define the updated competency model, assess the talent's overall capability to solve problems, strike the right balance of learning capability, character, skills, communication, and energy within the teams. Digital CIOs should help to foster integrity, trust, and transparency to build a creative working environment for ensuring that IT is strategically positioned to be ahead of where the business is moving next.

The pace of change is increasing. Literally, the transformation is a radical change. Yesterday’s solutions cannot solve the emergent problems in the digital era. An ordinary CIO manages, but an outstanding IT leader inspires, works closely with their executive peers to digest information, understands opportunities and threats, and builds the trustful relationship for leading business transformation proactively and progressively.


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