Former senior IT leaders who rise to head of the function are often surprised by the competencies that they are expected to have at the C-level.
Stories by Steve Kelner and Chris Patrick
In the progression from IT staffer to business strategist CIO, the watershed moment often comes with the transition from senior IT leader to function head CIO. On the accompanying Leadership Competencies Development Journey graph, this critical juncture appears as the thinnest of vertical lines separating the staff level from the C-level, but in practice it can be a wide gulf. And there is another line that must at least be reached by the prospective function head CIO: the horizontal line that separates the merely active demonstration of leadership competencies from their proactive application to make long-term organisational impact.
Different combinations of competencies come to the fore at each stage of the journey, with each combination forming the foundation for the competencies that lie forward and upward across the lines. Because Strategic Orientation is of the highest importance for becoming the Business Strategist CIO, it's tempting to try to shorten the journey by jumping straight to the development of strategic skills. But in the absence of the foundational skills that precede Strategic Orientation, or any of the other higher-level competencies, the result is likely to be an abstract intellectual exercise that has no lasting impact or benefit to the organisation.
Outstanding CIOs most resemble outstanding CEOs. That was the eye-opening benchmark established when the CIO Executive Council, as part of its Future-State CIO initiative, teamed up with Egon Zehnder International (EZI) two years ago to build a leadership competency assessment for CIOs and senior IT leaders.
EZI provided its model of the 10 competencies that leaders typically have, no matter their functional area or role.