I've recently started work on my fifth book, The CEO of Technology. The new book takes a close look at the challenges facing CIOs as they embrace their new responsibilities as value creators and leaders of genuine business growth in the modern enterprise.
For some CIOs, stepping up to a real corporate leadership role will not be easy. The good news is that leadership can be studied, practiced and perfected - assuming, of course, that you're willing to make the effort.
The idea that great leaders are born to the role has been largely disproven. While it's true that some individuals might possess higher levels of charisma than others, all the "secrets" to successful leadership can be learned and sharpened over the course of your career. Leadership is definitely an acquired set of skills, not a genetically inherited trait.
My extensive research into leadership has convinced me that successful leadership strategies are multi-dimensional, consistent and built for the long term. Moreover, all the important leadership qualities are rooted firmly in traditional "people skills" - such as empathy, awareness, collegiality, communications and collaboration.
Over time, I have observed five distinct capabilities required for world-class IT leadership and continuous innovation in today's globally-connected enterprise:
- Multi-Directionality. The modern leadership model takes multiple paths and explores multiple options. It combines internal and external resources. It has focus and structure, but it is also flexible and resilient. It assumes certain levels of risk, with the understanding that risks are proportional to rewards, and therefore necessary for success in competitive markets.
- Inside / Outside Balance. Successful leadership strategies leverage a blend of internal and external resources to find creative solutions and serve new markets.
- Redefined Teams. Successful leadership is all about building functional teams. In the past, team members were selected for compatibility and basic skills. That is no longer sufficient - today's teams must include insiders and outsiders, people who can find and leverage the appropriate resources (whether external or internal), people who bring different views and opinions - people who might not even be considered "team players."
- Deep Knowledge and Market Awareness. Great leadership also requires deep and extensive knowledge and awareness of the competitive landscape. You have to know that the competition is doing and know your competitor's business - even better than the competition knows its own business!
- Partnering With the World. The best leaders know that everyone is a potential partner. You must find good ideas wherever they are, and figure out how to make them work within your organisation to create new value for customers.
This is by no means a complete or exhaustive list. We'll add more key qualities and capabilities as we continue researching and exploring the best ways for IT leaders to create value and bring innovation to the modern enterprise. We're in the opening innings of a long game. The outcome will depend largely on the level and quality of our efforts to become great leaders.
About the author
A regular look at how digital leaders can embrace and embed organisational change through their people.