How to ace the CEO selection

The work of a CIO can be a good grounding for the skillsneeded to become a chief executive officer (CEO). After all, their work can touch and re­juvenate all areas of the organisation and keep the business ahead of the competition, says Helen Pitcher, chairman at leadership consultancy IDDAS.

But, she warns, they will always have a tough job convincing the board of their leadership qualities. There is a perception problem which hands rival candidates, such as CFOs or divisional CEOs, an advantage. Conventional wisdom has it that a CIO is a specialist who lacks the vision, leadership skills and the all-encompassing view of the organisation that is required.

Any CIO who aspires to be CEO needs to avoid saying anything that confirms those prejudices. Ditch the jargon and practice explaining everything in layman’s terms, she advises.

Commercial nous
“A CEO has a commercial perspective,” says Pitcher. In any interview, your interrogators will want to be reassured of your grasp of the commercial realities. Never express anything in IT terms.

Emotional intelligence is another must-have among recruiters these days. Think how your statements will demonstrate your empathy with people.

The overwhelming desire for any employer is for someone with the capabilities to drive the business. Don’t tell people how you will do this: you need to show you have already achieved it.

“A really good CIO with business acumen is worth their weight in gold,” says Pitcher. A good CIO is sometimes better than someone who has been divisional CEO. But they need to convince people that they have a global mindset and influence across the entire business.

In an interview, the interviewer’s notepad will have certain character headings they want to tick off, such as Strategic thinking; Leadership; Commerciality; Cor­p­orate Governance.

Each of your interview answers has to earn a tick in each box. Think how each of your actions will exemplify one or more of these assets.

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