Lead by ExampleThe CIO wears a number of hats in the enterprise. The CIO helps to identify and enable opportunities to grow the business and improve the efficiency of the organization through the use of technology. The CIO also oversees the IT infrastructure that’s needed to run the business on a day-to-day basis. In addition, the CIO helps to identify productivity tools that can help executives, managers, and employees to do their jobs better and more easily.

As the head of the IT organization, the CIO also sets an example for the rest of the group. A CIO isn’t a leader because of his or her title but based on the actions that he or she takes. This includes how the CIO handles decision-making, whether they act decisively, listens to and acts on input from managers and staff, and how they communicate the actions that have been taken.

CIOs show their leadership chops when tough decisions have to be made. This may include how a firing or a layoff is handled and how it is communicated to the affected individuals as well as the team.

Effective leaders listen to what others have to say and carefully consider their opinions. They consider different perspectives to each problem and they enthusiastically promote great ideas from other people. Great leaders are also highly trusted. Trust has to be earned and it’s something that takes time.

Leaders gain trust in a number of ways. They’re clear in their messaging about the organization’s mission and about individual expectations. They follow the golden rule: they treat others as they would like to be treated. They show that they are competent and act in good intentions. They demonstrate that they’re committed to the cause and are consistent in their actions.

CIOs also lead by their attitudes. IT team members look up to the CIO to see if they approach their roles positively and whether they tackle problems head-on.

Another trait of a great leader is that they are transparent. They don’t hide information from members of their team and they’re clear about their intentions. They’re also consistent in their messaging.

Great CIOs also exude confidence without being arrogant. They’re driven not by ego but by the accomplishments of the team. Confident leaders admit their mistakes to senior executives and members of the team. A confident leader is constantly growing, absorbing new information and willing to accept change.

Great leaders also live by the same rules they set for others. Skirting the rules sends the wrong message to employees and what’s expected of them vs. senior management.

To help the enterprise succeed in an era of unprecedented change, CIOs have to draw on a new set of competencies around courage. This includes a willingness to go outside of their comfort zones and to lead with passion, conviction, and innovation.

Still, CIOs must also continue to demonstrate many of the leadership traits that enabled them to become the leaders that they are.

“I think today’s CIO has to have a lot of qualities that ‘old’ CIOs use to have,” says Rick Hopfer, CIO at Molina Healthcare in an HMG Strategy video. “You have to have good leadership skills, good relationship skills, communication skills. You have to be able to negotiate. You have to deal with conflict. But you also have to have a strategic vision. You have to be able to be adaptable. You have to know what’s coming up and be able to communicate this in business terms. And you have to partner to deliver.”


Key Takeaways

  • A CIO isn’t a leader because of his or her title but based on the actions that he or she takes. This includes how the CIO handles decision-making, whether they act decisively, listens to and acts on input from managers and staff, and how they communicate the actions that have been taken.
  • Great leaders are highly trusted and gain this trust through their competence, through clear communications, through their consistency and how they treat others.
  • Exceptional leaders are driven not by ego but by the accomplishments of the team and readily admit their mistakes.