by Martha Heller

Why passion is a requirement for today’s CIO

Sep 29, 2015
CareersCIOIT Leadership

Tim McCabe, managing director at KPMG, discusses changes in IT leadership.

tim mccabe managing director kpmg

Tim McCabe, managing director of KPMG

KPMG recently released a study of 1,200 global CEOs. Want to know what they’re worried about? Here are their top four concerns, according to the research:

  • New entrants disrupting their business models
  • Keeping current with new technologies
  • Competitors’ ability to take business away from their organizations
  • The relevance of their company’s products and services in three years

Technology, of course, is the most significant contributing factor in these concerns. With no legacy infrastructure, new entrants can disrupt old businesses at a fraction of the cost of established players. Competitors who lead in digital technology can snatch away market share, and in most industries, products are becoming more software driven.

With the CEO thinking more about IT than ever, the role of the CIO is changing.

Updating the CIO job description

“Companies are writing CIO descriptions just the way they always have,” says KPMG Managing Director Tim McCabe, who is also the former CIO of Delphi Corp. “But the actual requirements are very different.”

McCabe divides these requirements into four buckets:

  1. Managing demand: “Clients today are digital natives and are setting a high bar for the CIO,” McCabe says. “CIOs can no longer hide behind infrastructure; they have to be out front to meet digital natives on their home front.”
  2. Governance: “The ability for business leaders to acquire new technology at an enterprise level has become nearly frictionless,” says McCabe. “When anyone can acquire a service online with a credit card, governance becomes critical to managing cost and ensuring a secure enterprise.”
  3. Outward focus: “Today’s CIOs have to be customer-centric,” McCabe says. “If you don’t understand the end customer, you can’t help the enterprise.”
  4. Balance: While CEOs are looking to their CIOs to innovate, IT leaders cannot lean too far in that direction. “CIOs must be the tip of the spear in driving disruption, but they still need to run the enterprise,” McCabe says.

Recharge the passion for leadership

For McCabe, the attribute that allows most CIOs to step up to such a challenging array of requirements is passion.

“Passion is a reason for being,” says McCabe. “It is what drives your curiosity and makes you a better and more focused leader. When you care about something, you want others to share the vision, and you strive to bring as many people as possible along with you on that journey.”

The problem with passion, however, is that with enough adversity, it can flicker out. “IT leaders need to think about how they recharge their passion,” says McCabe, who has three suggestions to help recharge:

  1. Expand your network: “Sometimes we pick mentors who are just like us,” says McCabe. “But gaining input from academia, technology experts, and leaders in different industries can provide new inspiration.”
  2. Get smarter: “Read things you don’t normally read,” advises McCabe. “Get out of your four walls and learn from new people. Bringing alternative perspectives back to your business can bring new energy to what you do.”
  3. Look to your team: “You can’t instill passion in anyone else,” says McCabe, “But you can bring it out. Are you providing your team with an opportunity to explore their own passion? You owe it to your team to put in models that provide some freedom to innovate.”

The CIO role has always been challenging, but with CEOs focused more than ever on technology, it is only getting harder. IT leaders who lack curiosity, drive and commitment will be frustrated, bored and unsuccessful. According to McCabe, CIOs in the digital age need a new set of Ps — passion, purpose, and potential — to rise to the challenge. 

About Tim McCabe

Tim McCabe joined KPMG in May 2015 as Managing Director. Prior to that, he was senior vice president and CIO with Delphi for nine years, and was previously with General Motors for 16 years. Tim received a BA from Oakland University and an MSM from Walsh College of Accountancy and Business Administration.