Should CIOs resign every year?

Should CIOs resign every year?

CIO once told me he resigns from his job every year. In this 'mental exercise', he takes on the persona of his successor, assessing what the team did well, which practices they should discard and what opportunities they can seize in the next 12 months.

His words came back to me a few weeks ago while listening to a presentation at the Gartner Symposium from analyst Dave Aron, who underscored how today's leaders need to adopt certain capabilities as businesses become more digital.

He cites the work of Michael Bungay Stanier, who had popularised the concept of segmenting a leader's work into 'bad', 'good' and 'great'. As Aron explains, 'bad' work in this context provides no value (things you should not be doing), 'good' work is what everybody expects you to do, and 'great work' stretches your role, inspires you, and adds value to the organisation.

He points out the real enemy of leadership is actually 'good work', despite its description. Spending more time on this leaves less time to do 'great' work which characterises true leadership.

The message for CIOs? "Reserving time for 'great work' is what leaders will have to do," says Aron.

Indeed, the standout CIOs I have met through my work (and they include the winners and finalists for CIO of the Year) are prime examples of these leaders.

They have started pilot projects, sometimes using so-called disruptive technologies that led to new products, a spin off business, or reduced costs. They also include in their busy schedules time to talk to future staff -- students and young professionals -- enticing them to work towards a career in business technology.

Melding this insight with the 'mental exercise' of the CIO I mentioned earlier will be a good takeaway for most of us to think about as the year nears to a close. We can use this reflection to come back in 2013 with a fresh perspective on how to wade through whatever challenges will be hurled at us.

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