6 Skills, Habits and Traits of Successful CIOs

Everybody wants to be the boss, but do you really have what it takes to be a CIO? We talked to the experts and peeked into this year's CIO Executive Council's Ones to Watch awards nominations to home in on what it takes to succeed as a CIO.

Wed, April 17, 2013

CIO — Most people say they like to be at the top of the heap of the IT management food chain, but with the CIO title comes great responsibility, accountability and pressure.

The world of technology changes at a blinding pace, which means a CIO has to regularly adopt new skills. Whether it's mastering cloud computing, big data or IT outsourcing, it seems like there is never a break from learning. And as other departments get involved in technology decisions, budgets are not always under the control of the IT department.

Habits and Skills of Successful CIOs

So what does it take to compete and be a successful CIO at a time when having a variety of skills is more important than ever before. To find out, we turned to our colleagues at the CIO Executive Council. Its Ones to Watch Awards program is designed to recognize future IT leaders. A panel of veteran CIO serves as the judges.

Candidates are nominated by their managers and judged on how well they have implemented and articulated major problems and solutions within their organizations in the last year. The results are great examples of the kind of skills it takes to succeed today in the upper echelon of any organization.

Using data from the Ones to Watch evaluation process as well as interviews with career strategist, Donald Burns and Arizona State University CIO Gordon Wishon, CIO.com has put together a list of traits and skills commonly associated with today's successful CIOs. If having a "chief" in your title is your long-term goal, then a mastery of the following skills and a strong desire are what's needed to get you there.

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1. IT Touches Everything

Regardless of your industry, chances are every department at your company relies on IT for something--phones, emails, computers, newsletters, content management systems and the list goes on.

"Every corner of every line of business has a need for some sort of IT support or service. That fact is a reflection of the value of what technology can do to improve performance, drive efficiency, save costs and ultimately to become more effective," says Wishon.

IT downtime can bring a company to its knees. Imagine a day where you can't send or receive email or you can't update a product or event web page with important new information. "If anything goes wrong with IT, you can't work. You might as well go home. If you're working from home and IT gets in your way, you might as well take the day off. For a business, limited IT is like limiting the oxygen supply - very quickly, people get scared, distracted and angry," says Burns.

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