What It Takes for a CIO to Be a CEO

What It Takes for a CIO to Be a CEO

With help from the CIO Executive Council, we tap into research about successful executives. Read on to learn more about the competencies CIOs need to develop to take the corner office, where CIOs fall short — and what CEOs expect from CIOs

Do you know your Executive Quotient (EQ)? By figuring your EQ, you can determine how well you're positioned to be the strategy-oriented CIO that businesses are demanding.

Your EQ can be measured across a set of executive leadership competencies that are essential for any well-rounded C-level executive — including IT leaders who want to move beyond the limits of Function Head and its focus on operations, alignment and order-taking. It's also a success indicator for CIOs who are taking on formal or informal responsibilities in non-IT aspects of the business or moving up to the CEO role. (To measure yourself, see this link at the CIO Executive Council.)

Your CEO sets the benchmark for performance across all executive competencies. The good news is that the best CIOs stand up well against their bosses and even outperform them in many competencies. The bad news is that they underperform significantly in competencies unique to strategic business leadership. This gap defines the development goals IT leaders need to set in order to advance their individual EQ, their careers and the CIO profession as a whole.

All About Competence
Helping the CIO profession fulfil its desired and necessary strategic role is the reason the CIO Executive Council developed its Future-State CIO program, of which the EQ competency assessment is the heart. The Council partnered with global executive recruiting company Egon Zehnder International to adapt its competencies and assessment model to gauge CIO EQ. In 40 years of assessing executive talent, Egon Zehnder chose this set of competencies because of its predictive value in identifying top-performing executives. These are the behaviours that differentiate good executives from great executives, says Stephen Kelner, global knowledge leader of Egon Zehnder's talent management and management appraisal practice group.

Kelner describes the competency of Market Knowledge in detail to illustrate the range in performance levels. The Market Knowledge score indicates how well an executive understands the marketplace, including customers, suppliers, competitors and regulators. "Level 1 CIOs are doing their basic job," says Kelner. "As they move to Level 2, CIOs can describe what the industry is doing and the basic forces of the market, including typical customers and obvious competitors." At the higher levels, CIOs know their market well enough to spot, anticipate and capitalize on trends. The highest performers make an impact on the marketplace by creating new businesses or new products through their understanding of technology, customer needs and market trends. Unfortunately, Market Knowledge, according to Kelner's six years of accumulated data, is, compared to CEOs' competencies, a weak spot for CIOs.

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