Habit Your Way

Habit Your Way

How do effective CIOs work with their executive colleagues to set their leadership agenda?

The hide of a rhinoceros, the morals of St Francis, the patience of Job, the wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Hercules,the leadership of Napoleon, the magnetism of a Beatle and the subtlety of Machiavelli.

While those are the musings of a former incumbent about the characteristics demanded of Canadian Prime Ministers, recent research by Gartner and executive recruiter Korn/Ferry International on successful CIOs might lead one to think that - perhaps minus the morals of St Francis - such qualities would serve most IT executives just as well.

How do effective CIOs work with their executive colleagues to set their leadership agenda? To find out, Gartner interviewed 30 leading IT executives from around the world - more than 70 per cent members of their enterprise's executive team - to identify what it calls the CIO executive success cycle: defined as the process employed by effective CIOs. And the research also revealed some valuable insights into the personal characteristics of effective CIO leaders.

"CIOs must have high self-esteem, and you really need to be a secure person," says Gartner executive programs (EXP) group vice president and head of research Marianne Broadbent. "You have to be thick-skinned, because we know that often CIOs get a lot of criticism - it's a very hard job to do.

"You have to be personally resilient, because things go wrong and you have to pick yourself up. You have to be decisive and calm. Things often go wrong at the worst time, like when you've got peak demand. You have to show calm amidst sometimes the terror of your workmates, and you have to give them the sort of leadership that enables them to get on with the job and fix whatever the problem is.

"You have to be highly motivated. You have to be achievement oriented. You have to have a high energy level, because you're often dealing with a lot of different things in a day, and you're flip-flopping backwards and forwards," continues Broadbent.

"And the one that always brings a big smile and a sigh of recognition is that you have to have low need for external affirmation and not expect to be praised often, because you won't be."

While Broadbent says some of these desirable characteristics can be acquired over time, not everybody has sufficient self-esteem to feel secure enough in their jobs to be able to handle the sort of criticism that a CIO inevitably gets. Nor is everybody decisive and calm, and some people never will be. So while some personal characteristics of the job can be acquired with experience, some parts of a CIO's personality will inevitably make them better - or less - suited to the role.

Effective CIOs work closely with their executive colleagues, Broadbent says. They're part of the executive team setting the agenda for their enterprises. Their leadership agenda - that agenda to assess what must be done to garner support and to ensure they have the resources to achieve it - intertwines both personal and business performance. Yet that agenda is difficult to set, especially in the face of newly competing pressures and tensions. How do effective CIOs work with executive colleagues to set that agenda? Gartner and executive search firm Korn Ferry International worked with leading CIOs to find out, including: BHP Australia CIO, Cassandra Matthews; Commonwealth Bank of Australia Head Technology, Operations and Property, Russell Scrimshaw; and Centrelink CIO, Jane Treadwell.

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