3 Behaviors that Could Cause CIOs to Fail

Some critics matter more than others. So when your CIO peers share the actions most likely to derail your career, you probably want to listen. Insights into positive CIO traits, negative attributes and more are part of a recent Forbes Insights survey quantifying the Ascent of the CIO.

What Causes CIOs to Fail?

Pressure on CIOs comes from everywhere. Business shareholders, directors and CEOs need their CIOs to move digital transformation initiatives forward faster and within budget. Employees want their CIOs to be more responsive to their technology needs, so they can be more productive.

“The CIO used to be a high-level technical advisor who backed up the business,” says Chad Lindbloom, CIO of C.H. Robinson Worldwide, a global logistics and transportation company. Now:

The CIO is required to learn and even lead in parts of the business that the old IT function rarely touched.

More than half (53 percent) of 400 surveyed CIOs cited three behaviors most likely to cause a CIO to be unsuccessful:

  1. Lack of technology expertise.
  2. Being tactical instead of strategic.
  3. Not seeing a vision and leading to it.

The common theme is clear: CIOs who shy away from action and leadership will find it hard to succeed.

CIOs can’t afford to keep IT operating the same way it does today—researching, discovering, testing and then rolling out new technologies. To be competitive in the years ahead, CIOs must help lead the business, not be reactive to business needs.

What Does It Take for a CIO to Succeed?

There are “long-standing perceptions of IT as mired in the technical weeds, disconnected from core business objectives and a bottleneck for speedy deployments,” writes CIO’s Beth Stackpole in State of the CIO, 2018: IT-Business Alignment (Finally) Gets Real. This “casts a shadow on the relationship, with lines of business often taking a view of IT as an obstacle, not an enabler, for strategic innovation.”

10 CIO Predictions: What's Next for IT

The inability to partner with stakeholders and win over senior management were also identified as failing CIO attributes in the Forbes Insights survey. Improvement in either (and in both) requires CIO self-awareness and self-transformation so the business can be successful.

The role of the CIO is evolving, notes VMware CIO Bask Iyer. Traditionally given to the most technical person, now the role is more about managing people. This requires leadership skills to help influence the business. He told The Economic Times:

“You’ll obviously see many CIOs end up as CEOs, because the job is becoming more IT-centric. Like Madonna, who changes her style every year, a CIO has to change his/her style every two years.”

His 2019 CIO predictions also caution that while IT will have one of the best seats at the table, “we must continually earn a right to keep that seat.”

Naufal Khan, senior partner at McKinsey & Company focusing on technology strategy and organization, believes, “CIOs need to move beyond the reactive practices of a service organization. They are the ones who will provide organizational leadership, people leadership and transformational leadership.”

Putting Your Best Foot Forward

For CIOs, occupying the top office is no longer a dream.

The CIO is the most dynamic and fast-rising position in the organization, and this rise in stature has only just begun.

Jon Manis, CIO and SVP of Sutter Health.

Significantly, CIOs embracing digital transformation opportunities recognize not only the need for their organizations to change, but also for their very personas to evolve. Surveyed CIOs identified these four personal skills as the ones they need to improve the most:

  • Leadership skills (39%)
  • Communicating and influencing (37%)
  • Partnering with others (36%)
  • Strategic thinking and action (32%)

By boosting these key personality qualities, top-level IT pros can find success in advancing digital initiatives that drive customer engagement, transform traditional work processes, and empower their workforces like never before.

The expectation from CEOs and others across the business is that CIOs will step up and embrace the leadership reins. It’s a matter of CIOs accepting the challenge of being both an advising expert and change leader.

Download the Forbes Insights report, commissioned by Intel and VMware, to learn more about how the CIO role is transforming.