Are You A Master CIO?

Find out if you’re a master CIO based on the 10 characteristics.

Digital business is adding complexity to the CIO role, and traditional leaders may not be able to make changes in the IT organization that are necessary for success. As the organization moves from project- to product-oriented, and the role evolves, the CIO will need to learn with and depend on other business units.

“This is not about high levels of maturity levels and this is not about technology choices,” said Alvaro Mello, managing vice president, during Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in Sao Paulo, Brazil. “This is about you as an individual leader. This is about you developing your people and addressing cultural issues that need to change for the organization to be successful.”

Explore CIO leadership from every angle


Becoming a Master CIO is not about a certain skill set or knowledge of a technology — it’s about embracing and promoting 10 characteristics. Master CIOs should:

  1. Act as business leaders more than IT leaders
    Only 23% of CIOs have a seat at the executive table. Master CIOs are the business leaders who also manage the IT organization. This means CIOs need to move into the role of proactive business strategist versus simply reacting to business requests.
  2. Are subject to business metrics
    Most CIOs are subject to traditional technical metrics like IT budget in relation to net revenues, SLAs or systems availability. Master CIOs are measured by business outcomes. These include things like conversion rates or number of online visitors. These metrics speak to how successful your organization will be when it comes to digital business.
  3. Have an industry vision
    The best leaders have a very strong opinion about where the industry is going and the future of the organization. These leaders look beyond the IT organization and a carefully crafted message about the industry. The point is not to be right, but to have an opinion.
  4. Look for additional capabilities outside of IT
    Master CIOs look for capabilities and people with skills in all areas of the business, from HR to marketing to logistics. They don’t care where people exist in the business, they just recognize that they need the skill sets. Look outside your company to service providers, startups, universities and around your ecosystem.
  5. Have high emotional intelligence and focus on “people skills”
    Emotional intelligence matters, but very few people pay attention to it. The key is knowing yourself, and understanding other people and how to respond to them.
  6. Are bimodal leaders with successful business narratives
    Bimodal leaders emphasize learning and exploration. Master CIOs don’t worry about control, but rather, they focus on accepting a certain level of ambiguity. They are open to learning alongside other executives and participating in the lessons with the team.
  7. Apply coaching or visionary leadership styles more than “command and control”
    Sixty-four percent of IT leaders are command-and-control leaders. The problem is that when it comes to innovation and inspiration, that leadership type doesn’t work. Aim for visionary leadership — being a good communicator and inspirational, and being a coach leader — passionate about developing people, leading to a better team and organization.
  8. Promote a culture ready for anything as part of their strategy
    Master CIOs must be change leaders and embrace change as part of their leadership style.
  9. Focus on innovators first, not on innovations
    This requires a focus on the people side over ideas or projects. This means a focus on talent over prioritization of projects. The best leaders are much more involved with choosing the right people.
  10. Have a “values first” mentality and recognize the wider benefits that accrue through the “purpose economy”
    Ask yourself how your company’s products and services impact people and the communities around them. Explore your personal values and reasons for why you work for this company, because it matters. People don’t buy characteristics of a product, they buy because they believe in what the company believes.

Read More: 5 Leadership Styles for Digital Business [infographic]


Clients can read more in the full research From Partner to Trusted Ally — How to Stay Relevant as a CIO by Alvaro Mello, et al. 

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