What Type of Leader Are You? - Page 1

Jun 27, 2007

Daniel Gingras

The role of the CXO, particularly the CIO is primarily one of leadership, but it’s the one thing we generally never get trained for. Ironically, it has become the “definition” of the CIO in recent time as the job becomes increasingly complex and specialized.

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The “true” CIO is focused on leading his organization but, more importantly, leading the entire organization in the acceptance and management of change. Moving the organization to accept the strategic nature of IT requires two ephemeral qualities not taught in most academic programs: Salesmanship and Leadership. Certainly salesmanship can be taught, in fact, it’s a growth industry. Look around and you’ll find every conceivable type of sales training program available.

Most, of course, have little to do with the type of sales we’ll be doing, which is both consultative and based on influence without authority. We’re trying to convince the management and then the organization as a whole as to the value of our vision for using technology to create a true competitive advantage for the organization.

Then we need to convince them of the architecture and implementation details necessary to execute that vision. I always advise people to start with the old gem, How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. Need more help? Take the Dale Carnegie course. Of course, if you really want to hone your skills, ask to go out with the sales force (if you have one in your organization) and try selling your company's service or product.

When I was a CIO, I required all of my managers to spend at least three days on the road with the sales force. Nothing changes your perspective more than having to try to sell what your company makes or does. It’s the hardest job in any organization, which is usually why it’s the most highly compensated.

Leadership is another issue. By and large great leaders are a product of their early development. If you were a Boy Scout or participated in other leadership oriented organizations in your developing years, or if you were in the military, you were taught how to lead.

These experiences can’t be duplicated and their value is incalculable. That doesn’t mean if you didn’t participate in these experiences you’re lost. If you focus on leadership and make it a priority, you can develop yourself as a truly great leader. Want an example of truly great leadership, read ENDURANCE : Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing.

Shackleton lead an expedition aboard the sailing vessel HMS Endurance to the South Pole in 1912. Unfortunately, the voyage went horribly wrong and the expedition became stranded in one of the most inhospitable places on the planet. Sir Ernest Shackleton led the expedition and although the ship was crushed by the ice, he took one of the smaller boat and sailed thousands of miles, climbed over an frozen mountain range to find help and then lead them back to save every one of his men.

Buy the book and read it. Would you take your role as leader so seriously that you would risk your life on what was considered a certain-death mission to save your team? It’s a great question.

Orchestra Model

The CIO has a unique challenge as a leader. Although he or she might have once been pretty technical, as he’s moved more into management, his skills generally fall behind his staff. So he must lead and motivate a group of extremely talented individuals; keeping them focused on a single vision. I liken this to the role of a conductor. You should be hiring the best cello player available in the marketplace.

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Tags: management, DRM, IT, IT Leadership, CIO management,

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