by Michael Goldberg

Leadership: What if Napoleon Had Been a CIO…

Sep 15, 20032 mins
IT Leadership

The CIO position has been around since the 1980s, and with this issue, CIO celebrates its 16th anniversary. IT management is a young profession, but what if the job had been around for centuries? That got us thinking about great leaders from history and the qualities they would have brought to the CIO role.

Winston Churchill


Achievements: Led Britain in World War II. Awarded Nobel Prize for literature.

Strengths: Boldness. Technology visionary. Increased production of ships during runup to World War I. Also invented modern battle tank.

Weaknesses: Allegedly drank a quart of brandy a day. Ambitiousness bred distrust among peers. Overbearing.

Proposed job today: CIO of the FBI.

Napoleon Bonaparte


Achievement: Conquered Europe.

Strengths: Excellent administrator (centralized governance, reformed court system, started Bank of France). Supply chain guru (perfected strategy of “living off the land” his armies invaded—until Russian project failure). Mergers and acquisitions expertise.

Weaknesses: Not collegial. Failed to seek input from staff. Failed to limit project scope creep.

Proposed job today: IT czar, Department of Homeland Security.

Elizabeth I (1533-1603)

Achievements: Inheriting a massive debt, brought stability to enterprise (ruled for 45 years). Kept Spain and France at arm’s length so England could prosper.

Strengths: Diplomacy. Eye for talented middle managers, e.g., Sir Francis Walsingham and Sir William Cecil. Fostered creative environment where people like William Shakespeare could flourish.


Proposed job today: CIO of California.

Leonardo da Vinci


Achievements: Painted the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper. Designed flying machines centuries before the Wright brothers.

Strengths: Thinking outside the box. A Renaissance man, really. Well-rounded.

Weakness: Follow-through. Left projects—such as equestrian monuments to his Milan patrons—unfinished.

Proposed job today: CIO at the Palo Alto Research Center.

Franklin D. Roosevelt


Achievements: Led U.S. out of Great Depression and to brink of World War II victory. Established Social Security.

Strengths: Confidence. Crisis management. Turnaround expert. Good communicator (see “Fireside Chats”).

Weaknesses: Poor judge of character (he thought “Uncle Joe” Stalin, as he called him, trustworthy). High-handed (sought to pack Supreme Court with yes-men).

Proposed job today: CIO for hire and turnaround consultant.

Sources: Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition, 2001; also The Last Lion, by William Manchester