The best CIO is an executive whom you don’t
immediately peg as a CIO. He has shifted from technology
manager to business leader, according to top technology
executives speaking at our annual CIO Leadership conference this week in
But CIOs must realize they can’t get to that exalted
state without taking time to cultivate their right-hand men and
women, as well as other go-getter members of the technology
group. Those people must be leaders, too.
“No one person can carry an organization,” said
Elvis Cernjul, senior director of technical services at Spiegel
Inc. “You surround yourself with people who
execute.” Cernjul is a “Ones to Watch” award
winner this year, one of 20 promising technology managers
honored by CIO. He spoke on a panel at the conference Monday.
report: The Future of IT Leadership and
Four Secrets to Becoming a Rising IT Star.)
Debate at the conference often focused on what a CIO should
do to make the people around him better. Identify
high-potential staff. Take time to guide them rather than make
decisions for them. Spend money on management training. Expose
them to challenging situations but provide support. By doing
these things, according to Steve Merry, CIO at Sara Lee, the
CIO will heighten his own success.
“If my direct reports can’t mingle with the
business, get respected and speak up, then I’ve failed,
too,” Merry said during another panel discussion Monday.
“Pick your team very well.”
Just as CIOs must develop their own people, CEOs must
develop their CIOs, said Bob Badavas, president and chief
executive officer of staffing firm TAC Worldwide. As a CEO,
Badavas knows that he, and therefore the company as a whole,
can only go so far without a top-flight CIO, he said.
“The layer below the CEO is the enabler of how high we
can fly. If my direct reports can’t push me up, that
affects the business,” he said.
The CIO has arrived when any other executive he’s
interacting with doesn’t instantly realize he’s a
CIO, said Raj Gupta,
who directs the CEO Perspective program at Northwestern
University’s Kellogg School of Management, and a speaker
at the CIO Leadership conference. “Can you talk in a way
that doesn’t label you as a CIO?”
Good Managers vs. Great Leaders
Throughout the CIO Leadership conference this week,
attendees and speakers discussed the differences between a good
manager and a great leader. The list below demonstrates some
identifiers are obvious but other shifts are subtle.
- Good managers run projects.
- Great leaders envision outcomes.
- Good managers work methodically.
- Great leaders display high energy and
fully engage in daily life inside the company.
- Good managers complete specific
- Great leaders generate many ideas and
can execute them.
- Good managers realize different people
must be managed differently, to bring out their
- Great leaders get the most out of
every person or situation.
- Good managers organize and
- Great leaders ask questions, challenge
- Good managers mingle mainly in the
rungs immediately up and down from their own spot on the
- Great leaders mingle with strategy
setters regardless of where they are on the org chart.
- Good managers internalize the
immediate boss’ agenda.
- Great leaders internalize the