Compared to other CxO positions, the CIO role is considerably new with about three decades of history. But contemporary CIO is one of the most sophisticated leadership positions in modern businesses. Due to the disruptive nature of technologies and exponential growth of information, IT leadership has to be continually reimagined, refined, refreshed and re-energized. CIOs are no longer just glorified geeks, but business savvy strategists and transformative digital leaders. Great CIOs have multiple personas, varying personalities, and impressive leadership profiles. The personas can be seen as the “public relations” part of digital CIOs that allow them to interact socially in a variety of situations with relative ease. Contemporary CIOs are expected to wear many hats to practice situational leadership effectively.
This book “12 CIO Personas: The Digital CIO’s Situational Leadership Practices” is the extensive brainstorming and logical content expansion of my book “CIO Master: Unleash the Digital Potential of IT,” to reimagine and reinvent CIO leadership via practicing multitudes of digital influence.
Chief Information Officer: Back to basic, CIOs are “Chief Information Officers,” who take charge of one of the most invaluable business assets - information.
Chief Innovation Officer: Ideally, CIOs are “Chief Innovation Officers” who are expected to constantly propose new ideas and challenge the status quo.
Chief Insight Officer: Go deeper, CIOs are “Chief Insight Officers,” who can provide information-based insightful advice for business executive peers and lead profoundly.
Chief Improvement Officer: In practice, CIOs are “Chief Improvement Officers” who lead IT to continue optimizing business capability and improving organizational maturity.
Chief Instrument Officer: Technology is the linchpin of the emergent digital ecosystem, and CIOs play an instrumental role in chartering digital paradigm shift seamlessly.
Chief Interpretation Officer: CIOs are fluent in both business language and IT terminology to ensure cross-functional communication without “lost in translation.”
Chief Inspection Officer: CIOs should do periodic IT management quality checks to ensure its effectiveness, efficiency, performance, and maturity.
Chief Interaction Officer: CIOs need to be far more diplomatic and build solid business relationships across the digital ecosystem.
Chief Intrapreneur Officer: CIOs are able to run IT as a software startup and the business in the business.
Chief Investment Officer: IT investment in the business can often become the decisive factor to run a high-performance organization with a long-term perspective.
Chief Integration Officer: CIOs need to reinvent IT as the linchpin to bridge IT-business gaps and strengthen the weakest links to catalyze digital transformation.
Chief Influence Officer: Digital CIOs today must develop their leadership competency to make multidimensional influence across the organization and the digital ecosystem.
Besides above mentioned, digital CIOs even have more enriched personas such as “Chief Inquisitive Officer,” “Chief Inclusiveness Officer,” “Chief Initiative officer,” “Chief Interface Officer,” “Chief Imagination Officer,” “Chief Intelligence Officer,” “Chief Investigation Officer,” and “Chief Inspiration Officer,” etc.
It’s time to raise the profile of digital CIOs. The digital CIO is a highly complex executive role to manage one of the most crucial business assets - Information and Technology. It is not sufficient to only keep the lights on, and the digital CIO shouldn’t be perceived as the stereotypical IT manager only. Contemporary CIOs need to make leadership influence on the organization from board level down to the business unit and within the IT organization because they are in the unique position to oversee underlying organizational processes and build differentiated business competency. Regardless of which industry or the nature of the organization you are in, the digital CIO is a strategic business leader first, and a tactical IT manager the second. It is important to raise the profile of digital CIOs because forward-looking organizations empower their IT leaders to drive changes and lead the digital transformation. IT is the linchpin to weave all necessary business elements into the differentiated business competency. Visionary CIOs must look at where the business is today and where it will be in five to ten years and ensure that information and technology can enable that vision going forward. CIOs must look at the future of business from both strategic planning and technology envisioning lens, master the art of creating unique and differentiating value from the pile of commoditized technologies. Digital CIOs today should be business generalists with “T-shaped” knowledge, speak both 'business' and 'technology' dialects fluently, and translate from one to the other seamlessly, without “lost in translation.” The high-profile digital CIOs are multi-dimensional thinkers and versatile business executives, having the right blend of leadership skills, business acumen, technical expertise, and digital fluency.
The CIO’s personalities also vary. There are introvert CIOs and extrovert CIOs; there are systematic thinking CIOs, but also intuitive CIOs. In fact, many CIOs have paradoxical personality traits which allow them to lead IT with balanced mindsets, activities, and speed so that every level of the organization has great working relationships with IT teams. Good personality testing covers critical thinking, problem-solving, pressure handling, creativity, inventiveness, and communication skills, etc. However, the personality test cannot measure tenacity and insight. It is also difficult to measure transferable skills and cross-industrial innovation ability, especially when there is a natural bias to select exactly what you need today (status quo) vs. skills needed to change for the better tomorrow. Consider the personality test more of a stereotype tool to assess the psychological preferences in how CIOs would perceive the digital ecosystem and their thought processes and mental strength to make decisions. The strong CIOs can succeed in high-pressure situations and first-time evolution.
The important thing is that CIOs as the top leadership role must have a strong mindset, a unique personality, and a clear idea of what needs to be done, yet creative enough to not hold the company back from growth. Regardless of which personality they have, digital CIOs need to be both transformational and situational, innovative and tactical, business savvy and technology insightful, communication-effective and operation-efficient.
Chapter 1 The CIO as “Chief Information Officer”: Back to its root, the CIO role is to be a "Chief Information Office," as an information management master for the dynamic digital corporation. Because nowadays IT is permeating into every corner of the organization, and information is the lifeblood of any business across industrial sectors.
Chapter 2 The CIO as “Chief Innovation Officer”: Digitalization opens the new chapter of innovation. CIOs need to present the entrepreneurial spirit, learn to think and lead innovatively, take calculated risks while nurturing contingencies and growing great talent, etc.
Chapter 3 The CIO as “Chief Insight Officer”: The pace of changes in IT would force more CIOs to shift into the insightful digital leadership role for exploring the breadth and depth of digital new normal. Because IT plays a significant role in driving the digital transformation, also because IT is uniquely positioned to observe processes across the enterprise and build differentiated business competencies.
Chapter 4 The CIO as “Chief Improvement Officer”: "Continual improvement" is an IT mantra in the digital era. There is never "enough" to optimize IT operations and improve organizational maturity. Continuous improvement is by tweaks of things in the old fashion way to bring efficiency. But, even a very small improvement leverages a new way of doing things, brings an outside method or view, and shifts the paradigm, to get digital ready.
Chapter 5 The CIO as “Chief Instrument Officer”: The digital paradigm has many dimensions, organizations can harness the power of information to provide the emergent business trends with a fact-based vision of where to aim and how to get there, through identifying the right information, validating it and communicating it to right people at the right time. Information Technology is the linchpin of the emergent digital ecosystem, and the CIO plays an instrumental role in chartering a multidimensional digital paradigm shift seamlessly.
Chapter 6 The CIO as “Chief Interpretation Officer”: The clear-cut divide that used to be there between IT and business in the olden days is vanishing fast; IT is the business. IT-business relationship needs to be shifted from alignment to integration to ensure that the business as a whole is superior to the sum of pieces. The top leaders such as CIOs have to be fluent in both business and IT dialogues, and switch them back and forth without “lost in translation.”
Chapter 7 The CIO as “Chief Inspection Officer”: IT plays a significant role in digital transformation, as more often than not, technology is a major digital disruptor today. The purpose of digital transformation is to embed digital technology into key business processes and improve business capabilities to compete for the future. The quality check of IT management is to ensure IT is the enabler and even a game-changer of the digital transformation.
Chapter 8 The CIO as “Chief Interaction Officer”: Good relationships with the right people make a business work. All businesses come down to people who plan to implement a solution. Whether it is with IT assistance or just by re-engineering an existing process, the work begins with people, the praise comes from people and the complaints often originate with people. Modern CIOs as “Chief Interaction Officers,” can master how to well manage different dimensions of IT relationship to improve leadership effectiveness.
Chapter 9 The CIO as “Chief Intrapreneur Officer”: Corporate Entrepreneurship or intrapreneurship has been recognized as a potentially viable, it means for promoting and sustaining organizational performance, renewal, and corporate competitiveness. Being entrepreneurial is first the mindset, and then attitude, skills are the easier part to be developed. Intrapreneur leaders present solid leadership attributes such as “full open communication,” “creativity,” “confidence,” “resourcefulness,” “decisiveness,” “ownership,” “self-adaptation,” and "resilience."
Chapter 10 The CIOs as “Chief Investment Officer”: Nowadays, technology is the disruptive force behind digital transformation and information is the gold mine all forward-thinking businesses are digging in. Companies across industrial sectors claim they are in the information management business. Thus, IT investment in the business can often become the decisive factor for running a high-performance organization with a long-term perspective.
Chapter 11 The CIO as “Chief Integration Officer”: It is the digital era, IT organizations are transforming from “Build to last,” to “Design to Change” and “Cloudify to Speed Up.” Especially, in large complex enterprises where there are many revenue streams, many business units, many geographies involved, many products and services will be having a variety of data, the variety of systems to handle the business. Integration is not always cost-effective, but to ensure that the application eco-system offers real value and future agility.
Chapter 12 The CIOs as “Chief Influence Officer”: Last but not least, CIOs are “Chief Influence Officers.” The command-control leadership style is no longer fit for the hyperconnected and highly transparent digital new normal. Digital CIOs today must develop their leadership competency to make multidimensional influence across the organization as well as the digital ecosystem. A digital CIO has to be a digital visionary, a transformational leader, an empathetic communicator, a good facilitator, a great listener, and an excellent digital game changer.
Modern organizations have their own sophistication with silo functions, the sea of information, and the pool of talents. The CIO is an inherently cross-functional role, to bridge the business and IT; the data and insight, the business’s today and tomorrow. The digital CIOs have to wear different personas and master multiple leadership and management roles effortlessly. They need to lead at the strategic level for conducting a complex digital orchestra; they should be handy managers to plumbing information and keep it flow smoothly; they also have to be like the diligent gardeners, to build a unique IT landscape via tuning technology, removing waste, nurturing culture, and empowering people.