Powerful CIOs understand influence comes from understanding and empathizing with others. In the book Social Intelligence, Daniel Goleman writes: "Our experience of oneness — a sense of merging or sharing identities — increases whenever we take someone else's perspective, and it strengthens the more we see things from their point of view." To achieve that perspective, plan for each interaction by writing down five topics related to the people and their work so that the discussion provides insights as to who they are, how they think and work, and what they care about.
Powerful CIOs understand the importance of listening and enquiry before shifting to advocacy. The common rule in emotionally charged conversations is to offer the other parties two empathetic listening responses (reflecting the content and the words) before asking questions to uncover the rationale for their feelings, actions and conclusions. While it may feel much more efficient and powerful to say: "We should", it's much more effective to ask: "How should?" The goal is to fully understand the thought processes of others before offering your own recommendations.
Powerful CIOs understand that persuading and inspiring others starts with character and credibility that are established through personal interactions or, initially, conferred through a trusted third party. They understand the power of appropriate praise and doing unsolicited favours for others. They don't waste their time trying to win the day through hard sells and grandstanding. Instead, they build support for ideas behind the scenes through one-on-one meetings and lots of give and take. They know how to link their recommendations to the benefits and needs of others and communicate using stories and metaphors. Powerful CIOs have the courage to negotiate win-win outcomes because, through every action, they have expressed consideration for all parties.
It's easy to confuse leading from the back with following because of the amount of time spent listening and adjusting to the needs of others. The key difference between the two was best expressed by Eisenhower when he said: "Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want because he wants to do it." Leading from the back is leadership at its finest. Done well, it fosters commitment based on the reward of a job well done.
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