Talking to a few CIO friends on the much debated and discussed subject of “what next” for us, the CIOs, many aspired to be CEOs. Now that is a good thing given that CIOs are setting their goals high; some are also achieving it within IT companies, a few in other industries too. Making the transition was possible for them as they graduated from technology enabling to business enabling to business itself. Their leadership was acknowledged and when the opportunity arose, they were considered rightful choice.
Emerging as a leader
Trust and respect from peers is garnered step by step everyday with the word and the deed. Conviction that comes out of past experience, the ability to consistently deliver against odds, the cohesion of the team in committing to the stretch and unreasonable, the ability to engage in conflict resolution focusing on the issue and not the people involved. They are always happy to help, sometimes even with personal sacrifice. This separates chalk from cheese.
You would say that this is just a sample of everyday behaviors that make a successful leader and CIO; it is also shaken quickly with hearsay and frequent missed steps. Respect is always earned, rarely conferred if at all; it comes out of consistency in delivery, walk the talk, articulation, coaching and mentoring others selflessly. The mojo develops with practice and stays with them as long as they continue to stay grounded through the journey. Nothing new here too? Hold on a bit.
The gap between perception and reality is based on the demand supply management between IT and business. When CIOs manage this well, they remain relevant to themselves, the business and the enterprise. The progression is determined by the interventions outside of their realm and “out of comfort zone” discussions. The CXO has no boundary defining Job Description; they only have a primary allegiance to a function.
Path to becoming the CEO
So when a successful CIO asked me the path to becoming a CEO, I wondered what qualified me to give advice? While I am a CIO and have held a few P&L responsibilities in my career, I am not a CEO. Having mentored a few people and learned a few tips from the world’s best coach (Marshall Goldsmith), I decided to probe further. He was determined to get there and was willing to work hard. We discussed his winning formula, did a SWOT, and identified a few behaviors that needed attention.
Defining the road ahead was easier than I thought; crafting the evolution plan took some time and then we agreed upon a follow up plan and progress report. I felt humbled by the experience, his faith in my words, and suggestions on his actions which he ardently believed will get him to his goal. Reflecting on what my virtual guru referred to, “I don’t coach losers because they are not willing to change”, I too believed in his plan and hope as he was willing to change. I believe sooner or later he will get there.
And then last week someone asked me the question, “When will we see you as a CEO?”, I started wondering if I should be reading more into these questions and discussions! Flattery is good, but it should not be taken to heart lest the fall hurt the inflated ego!