Chris Hjelm is a unique CIO, primarily because of two accomplishments: He\u2019s found success in several very different industries, and he\u2019s ascended the role itself to take on not only additional internal responsibilities, but also an appointment to the board of a successful public company.\nBut there\u2019s another thing that makes Hjelm unique. Take this question, for example.\nIf I ask you to do something stupid, are you going to do it?\nThat\u2019s what Chris Hjelm asked an IT manager he met when he first joined Kroger as CIO. He poses that challenge to current and potential employees alike. In the early days, more often than he\u2019d like, Hjelm heard answers like, \u2018Well, you\u2019re the boss, and I\u2019d be crazy to go against you.\u2019\n\u201cYou just did,\u201d was Hjelm\u2019s response, as he recalled to us in a recent interview. \u201cYou\u2019re a leader of associates and you need to do the right thing for yourself and the company, period.\u201d\nThat short exchange encapsulates Hjelm\u2019s leadership style in two ways. For one, he\u2019s aggressive. He thrives on driving change\u2014sometimes faster than some employees or fellow executives can handle. But there\u2019s a more fundamental underpinning: to Hjelm, values are everything.\nHow Hjelm\u2019s leadership philosophy was born\nLike many of the prominent IT leaders in Confessions of a Successful CIO, Hjelm\u2019s leadership philosophy is grounded by a core set of values. Those values were forged through his IT leadership roles at FedEx and eBay, before joining Kroger, the $108 billion grocery retailer, but their roots go much further back.\nRaised in a Midwestern family with a strong sense of right and wrong, Hjelm exhibited a mature, independent streak at a young age. Hjelm often was responsible for his older brother, who was handicapped by Klinefelter Syndrome. That responsibility ingrained in his mind the two key concepts: accountability and consistency. Those became something of a moral compass as Hjelm embarked on his professional career.\nAnother key learning came at FedEx, when, like all other prospective employees, he took a test aimed at determining if he would be a good fit in the logistic giant\u2019s servant-leadership culture. Hjelm scored high\u2014the highest ever, he was told\u2014mainly because he honestly answered questions that most would lie about. Like, did he ever steal anything? Yes, as a kid, and he felt horrible about it, and he owned up.\nWhen he arrived at Kroger, he found gaps in the service culture in IT. This became apparent as he confronted a weekend service outage early into his tenure. He reached a direct report on the phone to talk through the problem, and the report told him, \u201cI don\u2019t do that\u2014people who work for me deal with those issues.\u201d To Hjelm, that answer was fascinating\u2014and disturbing. \u201cAs of this minute, that just changed,\u201d he responded. If we\u2019re in trouble, we\u2019re both responsible, Hjelm told him, so let\u2019s get on the call.\n\u2018Kroger Technology\u2019 becomes a unified focused team\nThat\u2019s why he asks such tough questions of his people. If you\u2019re not willing to help drive the change he\u2019s mandating, then a change will certainly come. And it did. Hjelm\u2019s organization is delivering services much more efficiently, so much so that his focus today is aimed at doing what he came to do: turning Kroger\u2019s technology unit into an innovation engine that would become the most valued in the retail business.\nIt\u2019s a lofty goal, he admits, and a tough one to measure. But that mission has become gospel among the IT ranks \u2014 and, as Hjelm points out, it\u2019s also resonating with the rest of the company. He rebranded the organization from an ambiguous \u201cIS&S\u201d to \u201cKroger Technology,\u201d a clear, straightforward name that has further unified the team around that mission.\nAnd they\u2019re delivering. Some of Kroger Technology\u2019s notable accomplishments include QueVision, a system that has reduced checkout wait times to a mindboggling 30 seconds; and ZigBee, a sensor network for refrigerated cases and freezers that has increased food safety and store efficiency.\nHjelm\u2019s accomplishments \u2014 not to mention his service on the board of Kindred Healthcare, a $5.7 billion provider of post-acute care services \u2014 have garnered him even more responsibility at Kroger. He currently oversees the company\u2019s \u201csmall-store\u201d strategy, a new group of stores aimed at helping customers complete their fill-in shopping. These stores \u2014 smaller than a supermarket, but larger than a convenience store\u2014are expected to increase customer loyalty, grow identical-store shares, and boost wallet share among shoppers.\nHjelm has conquered two of his main objectives: building a culture of excellence and returning Kroger Technology to its legacy of innovation. And no doubt there\u2019s much more to come.