Strategic Leadership

Strategic Leadership

This month contributing editor Sue Bushell provides an overview of findings from CIO-sponsored research by the Cranfield School of Management in the UK.

The research, Strategic Leadership: Driving the IS/IT Agenda in Tomorrow's Organisation, yielded some interesting contrasts between Australian and UK CIOs. CIO will focus on leadership a fair bit over the next few months. In October, we'll begin a series on the topic from CIO (US).

Leadership used to be something you practised alone, but in today's business environment effective leadership is no longer a solo activity. Warren Bennis*, guest editor of the CIO (US) leadership series, sums it up best.

"In this Internet era, when change is both profound and unprecedented, the hand on the throttle of growth is yours. As CIO, you are better equipped than anyone to integrate the complex strategic initiatives of the various corporate business units. You can be both the glue and the lubrication that holds those efforts together and moves them forward.

Given that, I predict the next generation of corporate leaders will be people like you -- executives who understand the transforming opportunities and risks of information technology. But your goals will be different. The bosses of yesteryear were preoccupied with three objectives: control, order and predictability. Today we need leaders who can inspire, empower and lead their companies in a continual dance of adaptability.

Because of the integral nature of the role, CIOs cannot succeed alone. You need mentors and champions among your fellow officers, particularly the CEO, who appreciate the critical part you play. The CEO must recruit and leverage championship teams with the CIO as the star player.

If it's the CIO's turn to run with the ball, then why are so many of you standing on the sidelines waiting for someone to hand it to you? You hesitate to assert yourselves as enterprise leaders. I'm not sure why. It may be conditioning from years spent in the back office, out of sight and mind. It may be a function of the technologist personality type. Or it may be indifference from an unenlightened organisation.

Whatever the barriers are, you need to overcome them. If you can't or won't step up to this obligation, then you shouldn't be in this position. For those who are trying, keep at it.

* Bennis is a distinguished professor of business administration at the Marshall School of Business, the founding chairman of The Leadership Institute at the University of Southern California and a consultant to multinational companies and governments worldwide. He's authored and co-authored numerous books on leadership.

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