by Meridith Levinson

How Do You Spot a Bad CIO?

Feb 04, 20082 mins
IT Leadership

Is it easy or hard? What behaviors or actions demonstrate that a CIO is a stinker?

The Wall Street Journal has a great article—Keys to Spotting a Flawed CEO Before It’s Too Late (registration required)—that got me considering the same question for CIOs: How do you identify a bad CIO? What are the tell-tale signs? Is it possible for recruiters and hiring managers to read the writing on the wall before they hire the stinker CIO?

Terry Leap, a management professor with Clemson University, notes in the December 1, 2007 issue of The Wall Street Journal that it’s easy to identify a bad CEO “once the damage is done”—profits drop, strategies fail, the company comes under the scrutiny of regulators.

Leap provides an extensive list of red flags that search committees can use to smell trouble in CEO candidates. The list includes power-hungriness, shameless publicity seeking and a unilateral approach to management. The warning signs Leap offers easily apply to CIOs.

I want to ask all IT professionals who work for CIOs—from user support specialists all the way up to the CIOs’ chiefs of staff—how you determine whether a new CIO is good or a bad. What behaviors or actions demonstrate to you that the new CIO is no good?

I came up with a few ideas, but I want you to add to my list:

  • High employee turnover.
  • Rehashing the same ideas, projects and technologies that s/he’s implemented in all previous CIO positions.
  • Firing existing employees and replacing them with people who’ve worked for him/her in the past.

I’d also like executive recruiters and executives on search committees in charge of hiring CIOs to weigh in: When you’re screening candidates for a CIO job, how do you know when you’ve got a bad CIO on your hands?

Update 2/22/08: I finished my feature story based on this blog entry about bad CIOs. You can find it here. I hope you find it entertaning *and* useful. Thanks to everyone who left comments on this blog entry. We sparked a heated, energetic debate, and I was glad to see two individuals who thought they had different views on the topic come to consensus. Let the discussion continue!

Update 2/28/08: Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center CIO John Halamka offers his perspective on what makes a bad CIO on his blog, GeekDoctor.