Do you have the Executive nous? – Part II

Part I of this series provided an insight into the most demanding leadership challenges for CIOs in recent times and highlighted some of the competencies successful technology leaders of today need to master. This second part of the series outlines common stakeholder expectations towards CIOs and concludes on the key qualities a modern day CIO is ought to possess.  

Having the right level of Executive nous is the CIO’s ticket to play

It is one thing for the CIO to seek an elevated profile and visibility but this also brings the leadership of the role under greater scrutiny.

The CIO will face the same kinds of expectations that stakeholders have for other members of top management. The question of many CIOs is “Does the CIO have the right level of Executive nous?” A valid question to ask, considering the skills gaps identified in the 2015 Deloitte Global CIO Survey.

A key capability for a senior leader is the ability to get things done through people, or in some cases layers of people, that may not necessarily understand the reason or imperative behind what they are being asked to do.

For the CIO to play in this space, there are four key capabilities they need to master:

  • Facing a diverse set of stakeholders means interests and aims do not always align. The CIO must be able to motivate people to undertake difficult tasks for a purpose that may not be entirely clear to them.
  • Clear communication skills are critical, as in a highly visible role, they are even more at risk of having their meaning and message misinterpreted.
  • The CIO needs to be ready for their own levels of stress and strain to grow quickly, knowing oneself is crucial. Only with this insight is one able to self-manage effectively.
  • Being a CIO is more than technical knowledge or qualities of mind and personality. People look for leaders with character, integrity, humility, wisdom and vision; they want an active, energetic presence that engages with everyone and is able to get tough jobs done.

What is the bottom line?

  • Establishing strong relationships is key to effectively influencing business stakeholders. The frequency of interactions is just as important in building relationships as quality of interactions. “Quality time” is still a consideration: If there is low value in frequent encounters, the relationships tend to weaken.
  • Because no individual can meet all the needs of a complex organisation, the CIO needs to surround themselves with complementary talents. It may be the only practical way to build trust and confidence among key stakeholders. Many CIOs recognise the importance of talent management, but few make it a personal priority.

CIOs need to accept that it is uncommon to find all answers and insight within themselves, or even within their team and organisation. Build peer relationships outside of the four walls, outside of their industry, and even outside the CIO profession. Seek mentors, advisors and reciprocate.


Did you miss any of our previous Blog posts? Read them here.


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