I’ve recently started working on my fifth book, The CEO of Technology. As I mentioned in a recent blog, this book will take a close look at the challenges facing CIOs as they take on greater responsibilities as creators of business value and orchestrators of growth in the modern enterprise.

As part of my work on the book as well as extensive research I’ve conducted on leadership over the past 20-plus years, I’ve learned that there are a few distinct capabilities that are required for world-class IT leadership to help organizations succeed in today’s rapidly-changing marketplace.

These traits include a willingness to partner with anyone and everyone if it helps bring new value into the organization. It also requires CIOs to have a deep and extensive knowledge of the competitive landscape, including comprehensive insights into your competitor’s business. For the purpose of this article, I’d like to focus on the ability and flexibility of first-rate CIOs for being multi-directional.

Successful CIOs are at the center of transformation. They’re able to help organizations obtain business agility and explore new avenues of opportunity quickly and easily.

Savvy CIOs are able to accomplish this, in part, through their willingness and ability to take multiple paths and explore numerous options prior to arriving at a decision. They gather perspectives from a variety of different people – including both internal and external resources. Shrewd CIOs collect viewpoints from people in dissimilar roles who have different ways of looking at things. But they don’t stop there. They also collect insights from trusted advisors outside the company who are able to approach subjects from a unique standpoint.

Open-minded leaders are also willing to take on a certain amount of risk, fully cognizant that the level of risk is proportionate to the rewards that can be generated. They recognize that a willingness to take risks is a prerequisite for market leadership and that a risk-disposed culture is necessary in order to succeed in today’s highly-competitive marketplace.

Canny CIOs understand that they have to nurture and encourage employees to take calculated risks. This includes reassuring workers that they won’t be punished for mistakes and failures.

Industry forces have led CIOs to this juncture. As Scott Fenton, VP & CIO of Wind River Systems points out in an HMG Strategy video, “the CIO is in an ever-changing role…now we’re getting more involved in the sales cycle, in product development and in customer-facing roles.”

As the role evolves and CIOs continue to take on greater responsibilities, the CIO will need to become increasingly multi-directional in order to foster collaborative leadership and drive transformational change across the enterprise.