ICT-powered Value Chain:


Attributes of an IT Leader

What It Leaders Are, Know, and Do

Adapted from '"What IT Leadership Look Like?', CIO.com


To succeed as an IT leader, you need to develop the business management skills.

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The CIO.com list of Ones to Watch includes folks, mostly directors and VPs, who appear headed for the CIO suite. More than ever before, their skills go beyond the purely technical; they exhibit vision, the ability to influence others and a knack for getting things done.

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A wish list includes 11 traits of a true IT leader. Some examples: fluency in both technology and the business, the ability to work at tactical and strategic levels simultaneously, marketing competence, consummate communication skills, and a readiness to stretch beyond core competencies >>>

Finding such people isn't easy. "They need to be good at a lot of things," says Agnoli, awards judge and CIO of Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Nicholson Graham. "They have to be able to delve from the really high-level stuff all the way down to the minutiae, sometimes at the same time. It's a very difficult skill set to find, so you want to hold on to them."



There are some telltale signs that an IT leader is or should be headed for the top. Leading companies recognized for their rising-star status in the IT world, display three overarching characteristics the wise CIO will watch out for. They have vision, often taking creative approaches to solving business problems.

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They exhibit influence, with superior communication skills and the ability to build consensus. And they get things done, executing enterprisewide projects successfully time and time again.



Vision. Vision is as a core competency is the kind of trait CIOs just know when they see it. It comes in many forms, from the ability to envision an executable plan to figuring out how to enable a new business product. But the qualities that lead IT up-and-comers to creative approaches to solving business problems are easier to boil down. They need a thorough understanding of the down-and-dirty details of both technology capabilities and business needs, the flexibility to adjust to changing conditions in either or both, and the ability to bring the two together into a very high-level strategic plan.

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Influence. Of course, giving doctors and nurses innovative new technology tools is one thing; getting them to use these tools is quite another. That's where influence comes in. Often, CIOs must call upon a whole host of skills to get business buy-in for, and usage of, IT-enabled change from being willing to learn more about what the business needs to gaining the trust of key stakeholders to marketing big, enterprisewide changes to building relationships with various (often very different) constituencies.

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Execution. Vision and influence are essential qualities for future CIOs. But without solid execution, great ideas and successful marketing campaigns quickly fall apart. You've to stand and deliver.

It takes time though to truly judge whether an IT leader is good at getting things done. "You have to look at the scope and reach of what they're doing. It's one thing to do a successful project; it's another thing to do it across the entire organization," says Agnoli. "You also have to look at how successful they are. They need to build a track record over time, not just one good project." To do that, IT leaders need to be able to employ solid project management practices, hire and manage the best employees to execute those plans, and either get involved or delegate appropriately.

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And though it sounds rather circular, it takes an IT leader who has vision and influence as well.