There are certain qualities that are highly visible in great leaders. These include an ability to communicate a vision with others in the organization, connect with employees through a leader’s communications style, and bring them onboard with their perspective.
It’s also many of these same capabilities that act as a talent magnet for attracting people who share the same vision and passion.
This can be pretty challenging sometimes for IT leaders. Although they’re good at understanding the big picture, many IT executives are introverts. The social communication channels that CIOs create are associated with their personalities. Those that are extroverted can make the work environment fun and a place where other IT professionals want to land, a place where they’re excited about the project work.
These attributes map with a 2016 study of 195 leaders in 15 countries that was conducted by Sunnie Giles, President of Quantum Leadership Group and published in the Harvard Business Review. When participants were asked to rate the top qualities for leaders, top responses included those who have high ethical and moral standards (67%), provides goals and objectives with loose guidelines/direction (59%), clearly communicates expectations (56%), communicates often and openly (42%), is open to new ideas and approaches (39%) and creates a feeling of succeeding and failing together (38%).
Strong leaders need insight into who they are, their own personalities, their own emotional intelligence (EQ) as well as their gaps in order to be effective. The most impressive leaders that I’ve met have done their own homework on themselves. Many leaders have used external coaches who can provide 360-degree reviews.
I provide this type of coaching and it’s been fabulous for the leaders I work with to gather feedback from people they work with and identify blind spots they have in certain areas.
In some cases, CIOs are simply unaware of these “blind spots.” In other cases, if a leader isn’t comfortable with a particular skill or leadership gap that’s been identified and it’s a stagnant situation that hasn’t improved, it’s incumbent upon them to bring in people who can do those things.
For instance, if you’re not a good mentor, bring in people who are good at that.
The best leaders are those that take this type of feedback to heart and use these insights to improve upon their weaknesses.
Planning for the future
Being able to plan for tomorrow is incredibly important. Most CIOs go into their jobs thinking three-to-five years out but usually not much beyond that since it’s not practical. But many IT leaders have recognized the importance of envisioning the future and planning ahead.
Some CIOs have tackled this by creating a small, dedicated think-tank with a few staff members that have backgrounds in areas such as software engineering and architecture. These CIOs haven’t allocated a lot of budget for these skunkworks projects but it is allowing them to prototype certain capabilities to help them to embrace a concept. That’s definitely a role of today’s leader.
One of the ways that CIOs can stay on top of what’s going on is by staying connected through conferences and associations, business partners, and venture capitalists. This reflects a combination of leadership and managing your job well.
Great leaders sometimes are born – but more often than not, they are cultivated. There’s such a strong need for courageous leaders – people who will stand up and do things that others aren’t willing to do.
What I’ve outlined here are steps and tools that CIOs can invest in to boost their careers and their company’s mission. Strengthening your leadership capabilities is a skill you can – and should – continue to hone.
- by Beverly Lieberman, President, Halbrecht Lieberman Associates