One of the top challenges facing most CIOs is leadership, plain and simple. Take a close look at any great CEO and you will see a great leader. That's the honest truth, and it's not likely to change. Great C-level executives are almost always great leaders first.

My friend John Foley has spent many years in leadership roles. He is a former lead solo pilot of the Blue Angels, the U.S. Navy's high performance flight demonstration team. As a career Navy officer, jet fighter pilot and member of the legendary Blue Angels, John has studied the art and science of leadership from a unique perspective.

John recently presented at the 2015 Dallas CIO Executive Leadership Summit and received very positive feedback. His keynote "The High Performance Climb" speaks on the principles of trust, alignment, clarity of purpose and commitment. I asked John to describe further the traits and characteristics of a great leader. Here's a snippet from our conversation:

"Great leaders inspire. They recognize potential in the people around them. Great leaders are always creating opportunities, for themselves and for the people on their teams," John said. "Great leaders are also calm under pressure. A wonderful example of a great leader is Greg Wooldridge, my 'boss' on the Blue Angels. Even in times of extreme stress, Greg's calm and confident voice on the radio kept us focused on the tasks at hand."

I'm grateful to John for sharing his insight, and I really appreciate how he describes those essential characteristics of excellent leadership. Notice how all three of the leadership traits are inherently altruistic and benevolent. Great leaders focus on helping their teams achieve success and continually improve their performance. Great leaders stay calm and reassuring, even in the most difficult circumstances.

I believe that CIOs can learn valuable lessons from world-class leaders in all walks of life. As I've written and said many times, successful CIOs need more than superior technology skills - they need to acquire the characteristics and behaviors of great leaders.