The profile of the Chief Information Officer is changing. We've moved beyond the days when technical experience was the predominant qualification for the job. Now the CIO must be many things to many people, and one of the most important attributes he or she must bring to the job is leadership. Our interviews with more than 340 CIOs in North America and Europe indicate that leadership is about forming a view and rallying the organization around that vision to achieve results that are exceptional.
How is leadership demonstrated by the CIO? First and foremost, the CIO must be a very strong communicator, both orally and in print. When an executive recruitment firm, such as ours at Korn/Ferry, looks at CIO candidates, it discerns how well they communicate at different levels: with the CEO, peers, and subordinates.
The successful CIO must be able to speak in plain language, understanding that even the words themselves have changed. A management that once spoke of feedback loops, control systems, compliance and measurement devices now uses such words as empower-ment, alliances, shared values and consensus. Today's CIO must use multiple styles to communicate ideas and motivate people, articulating a vision for the IS group and its peers in other company functions.
Those who have obtained the best positions in our highest level searches not only understand how to be a good communicator but also know when to listen. Over and over, we are told that the best CIOs listen to their peers in finance, human resources, marketing and other departments. As CIOs rise ever higher on the organization chart, their inter-personal skills, a major function of leadership skills, must come to the forefront. Words that may not be part of the previous CIO vocabulary - such as empathy, openness, and candor - are often used to describe these successful CIO candidates. These individuals make their peers into confidants, promoting joint ownership of projects and communicating ideas and initiatives across the organization.
FULL COMPLEMENT OF SKILLS
What are the most important activities for CIOs to focus on if they wish to advance their career and expand their responsibilities? And what are the critical success factors for advancement, apart from leadership, in the near future?
For the CIO to make a mark in the new, more people-oriented organizational universe, he or she must also be a technology guru, negotiator, project manager, fire-fighter and customer service representative. And let's not forget the ability to be responsive to business needs, while demonstrating good judgement and knowledge in selecting IT solutions that meet strategic goals.
Clearly, the ability to understand and effectively manage technology is of critical importance to the job, yet when selecting a CIO, Boards of Directors and CEOs almost always select the person who is able to readily articulate the technology vision. So despite the absolute need for technological competence, the selection process still puts a premium on communications skills. CEOs want today's CIOs to be enablers, with business acumen and presence in the boardroom, and the ability to manage and evangelize change, based on maintaining competi-tive advantage and leveraging the customer base.