by Mark Chillingworth

Book review: The CIO Edge

Feb 06, 2011
CareersIT LeadershipTelecommunications Industry

The CIO Edge: Seven Leadership Skills You Need to Drive Results By Graham Waller, Karen Rubenstrunk and George Hallenbeck (Havard Business Review Press)

I opened The CIO Edge hoping for a book that would take the CIO leadership debate further and detail the ‘edge’ a CIO has in the boardroom. Sadly what I got was a pretty standard ‘how to be a leader’ text.

The CIO Edgeis a collaborative work from two CIO headhunters and a Gartner analyst. The premise is that soft skills will deliver hard results, and to prove their point the trio have carried out some empirical research which, although global, clearly reflects their native US CIO culture more than it does that of European technology leadership.

For those CIOs that may be experiencing staff difficulties from inheriting a team or from M&A there are some useful nuggets here. Equally the pure technologist developing their people management skills will also benefit from a read of this accessible title.

One of the strongest aspects of this book is an opening section clearly targeted at that newly promoted CIO. From chapter one onwards it instils the belief that soft skills and people leadership are more important than anything else in your new CIO-level role. It is particularly keen to stress that all the old aspects of your day job and your tendency to do some hard labour yourself have to be set aside if you are to succeed as a CIO.

“There’s an obvious reason why many CIOs have trouble embracing the concept that being a leader is more important than managing IT. It’s simply counter-intuitive to just about anything they have been rewarded for earlier in their career,” it reads.

Perhaps it is because the authors are American, but I got a feeling that the three feel that the role involves liking and being liked by all. This is something many new to leadership struggle with, and to me it suggests that you have to suffer fools gladly; I have a tendency to tell fools what I think of them and expect them to win my respect.

Throughout the book there are good references and case study interviews with CIOs, and while it is US CIOs who dominate, there is some good experience to glean.

Overall The CIO Edge is worth a read for new CIOs, or it’s one to pass onto those members of your team you are coaching as part of a succession plan.