by Edward Prewitt and Polly Schneider Traylor

Elements of a CIO Education

Oct 01, 20022 mins

The federal CIO Council, created by a 1996 executive order as the principal forum for senior IT managers in federal agencies, produced a set of “high-level competencies” that government CIOs need. A group of government executives, academics and industry CIOs then extracted from the competencies a list of specific learning objectives, to be used by Pittsburgh-based Carnegie Mellon University, and a few other selected institutions for training up-and-coming CIOs.

The full list, finalized in March 2001, came to 549 learning objectives in 12 categories. The leadership/managerial category alone has 80 learning objectives (LOs for short). Carnegie Mellon drew from this roll to shape the curriculum for its CIO Institute leadership module (see “Advanced Leadership Learning,” Page 114).

The leadership and management LOs are prefaced with a note that says, “management concepts are important, but CIOs must move beyond management to LEADERSHIP.” In practice, says CIO Institute instructor Richard Friend, helping students differentiate between management and leadership is one of the more difficult aspects of the class. “The reality is it’s blurry,” he says.

In disaggregating leadership and management, the federal LOs emphasize the importance of interpersonal success. Other discrete skills on the list are communication and conflict management. On the whole, though, the LOs give more weight to research concepts such as behavioral principles, theories of motivation and the different types of visionary leadership. Other LOs deal with building expertise, performance assessment and retention. A section of the leadership and management LOs is devoted to knowledge management.

Don McGillen, founder of the Carnegie Mellon CIO Institute, lauds the list of LOs. “As a body of knowledge for the CIO job, it’s pretty good,” he says. Although 549 LOs might seem like a lot to fit into a course, “they get covered in a very natural way,” he says.

For the full list of federal government learning objectives for CIOs, search for the CIO University Learning Objectives on