Beyond The Obvious: Top Traits of Successful CIOs

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By: Daniel Newman|

Photo Credit: danielfoster437 via Compfight cc

Being a successful chief information officer (CIO) requires certain attributes, but you may be surprised that some of the most important ones have little to do with technology. Customer-centric business models are leading today’s industry, essentially requiring that tech expertise is equally matched with people skills.

Just recently, I explained how CIOs are the glue holding together business technology, especially in the ever-changing digital landscape. Wondering why that is? It’s because of these top five traits that the most successful CIOs rely on to ensure their companies’ competitive edge.

#5: Experienced Self-Awareness

The combination of emotional intelligence and self-awareness is the bedrock of good judgment and risk management. It is also helpful for recognizing and hiring talent. Experienced self-awareness means basing your decisions on past failures, challenges, and successes. Self-awareness alone is a crucial trait for success; mix in experience, and you are better able to help those around you succeed.

CIOs who rely on their previous experience to source and identify new talent—as well as anticipate future needs—will successfully hire industry thought leaders. The best CIOs maximize their talents and leverage their weaknesses into strengths.

#4: Dedication to Lifelong Learning         

In a world where what worked yesterday is not relevant today, a top CIO has to have a natural appetite for knowledge. This ability goes hand in hand with self-awareness, because leadership and people skills are essential to integrate or manage technology effectively. Not only do you have to master the latest technologies consistently, you must have the ability to lead others to use the technology as well.

Being a constant learner is more than having the resources to learn about new technologies. It’s about the willingness to keep an open mind, to optimize new things to their fullest potential, and to teach others how to do so as well. A CIO has to wantto be a constant learner.

#3: People-Focused Outlook

Many organizations have standout structures, technology, and assets – yet still fail because they lack human capital. The greatest companies are built on good judgment and risk management—two things that are done through people. Top CIOs must have the ability to lead, motivate, and recognize the talents of people who work for them. Having a keen eye for someone’s competencies and failures allows you to recruit the right kind of talent for your business.

Being people-focused will help you staff your company according to your exact needs, as well as relate to your clients on a more personal level. Much has been written about the importance of personalization and customization in today’s industry. Customers want to feel cared for by your company and in return, you’ll earn their loyalty.

#2: Communication Skills

To be people-focused, you have to be a great communicator. Knowledge alone isn’t enough to lead others. You have to speak to others in an authentic way. Listen to your employees’ needs and reciprocate with an appropriate response. Great communication starts with great listening.

As a top CIO, you don’t lead things–you lead people who manage things. To lead people effectively, you must communicate with them. All of these traits build upon each other. To be a great leader, you have to master self-awareness, communication, and focus on the people who make up your company. Consider human capital one of your assets.

#1: Results-Driven

Finally, a top CIO has to focus on outcomes. Looking ahead at outcomes ensures you’re on the right path to success. Project the outcomes of new technology, new hires, optimizations, and new ideas to gauge results and plan. If you spend too much energy focusing on the wrong details of your business, you won’t fully comprehend how you achieved the results you did.

Not only do top CIOs consider people (over technology) as the greatest asset to manage, but they realize that’s what gets results. Focusing on results is the key to ensuring whatever you do is a positive step in the right direction – a results-driven direction.

Cultivate Change from the Top Down

These five traits are by no means strictly for CIOs— cultivating these traits throughout your organization can have great benefits. CIOs have the power to change company culture. Start by leading through example, and then hire your way to a more result-driven business.

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About The Author

Daniel Newman

Founder and President, Broadsuite, Inc.

After 12 years of running technology companies including a CEO appointment at the age of 28, I traded the corner office for a chance to drive the discussion on how the digital economy is going to forever change the way business is done. I'm an MBA, adjunct business professor and 4x author of best-selling business books including "The Millennial CEO" and "The New Rules of Customer Engagement." Pianist, soccer fan, husband and father, not in that order. Oh and for work...I'm the co-founder of V3B [Broadsuite], a marketing firm specializing in the digital space, helping companies be found, seen and heard in a cluttered digital world.

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