What soft skills do CIOs need?

Will Astbury
by Will Astbury 26 April 2017

Being an exceptional CIO is not just about achieving your organisation’s objectives. It is an unusual leadership role in which you must meet targets, maintain daily operations, innovate, increase efficiency, and protect your organisation’s infrastructure whilst inspiring your team and balancing individuals’ emotions and desires. This is no easy task.

Harvard Business Review stated: “The tech industry’s combination of high-velocity competition, complexity, global talent, and interdependence among rivals makes it a truly unique environment, requiring a distinct set of leadership skills.”

In this article, the consultants from Crimson’s IT recruitment agency have defined exactly which specialist skills CIOs need to succeed in their role.What soft skills do CIOs need?

  • Business focus: The most successful tech leaders focus on solving real business problems and adding value for customers. Board members and departmental leaders are far more likely to embrace a CIO’s ideas if they have demonstrated how technology can help their department achieve its individual and organisational targets.
  • Communication skills: CIOs need to have the communication skills of a hostage negotiator. They must communicate with a variety of colleagues that have varied levels of technical knowledge. An article on Forbes.com said CIOs need the ability to “articulate complicated technical concepts to non-tech stakeholders simply and effectively” whilst giving context and inspiring techy IT team members. A CIO must persuade his team that the product they are building or supporting has a true and valued purpose. “A team that truly believes in their company’s products will be a highly productive and committed team”.
  • Remaining calm and delivering under pressure: It is the CIOs responsibility when times get tough to act as buffer between their team and other departments of the business / customers so they can fix problems / create solutions quickly, effectively, and without stress nor distraction.
  • Emotional intelligence: CIO.com claimed that CIOs with good emotional intelligence are “priceless in a business environment”. Good CIOs will be confident, humble, and will listen to their team’s ideas. They will also act with empathy, people can feel dehumanised in corporate organisations so CIOs must think about how their employees feel and understand their desires. Emotional intelligence helps CIOs make the right decisions for their organisations and their employees.
  • Engaging, dynamic personality: Both introverted and extrovert IT leaders can motivate and inspire their colleagues. Top CIOs do this by creating an environment of innovation where their teams are empowered to work both independently and within teams to solve critical business problems.
  • They’re highly collaborative: CIOs understand the power in working with others to solve critical business problems. They lead by example in working with leaders of other business units to build cohesive strategies and expect the same from their team.
  • They recognise team efforts: The most effective CIOs identify and reward the extraordinary efforts and achievements of individuals in their team. This recognition is critical for employee engagement and for retaining the best talent.
  • The ability to make tough decisions: Good CIOs trust their judgement and make difficult decisions quickly. Businesses are transforming at a rapid pace and disruptive innovations are cropping up everywhere. Whilst some decisions must be evaluated and assessed carefully, some must be made quickly. For example, this might be making a snap decision to hire a talented candidate based on gut instinct.
  • The ability to recognise your own weaknesses: Ultimately, people can’t change who they are – even CIOs. They can work on their technical skills and management of situations but smart CIOs know when to appoint staff with complimentary skills to their own. For example, if a CIO knows that sometimes they may lack sensitivity, they may appoint someone with good emotional awareness to help them deal with delicate situations.
  • Proven drive for personal skills development: A leader is constantly looking to try and improve themselves. They take ownership of identifying and pursuing professional development opportunities.
  • Quality is the number one priority: A true leader doesn’t just do something to get it done, and they don’t do things half-heartedly nor sloppily. The best CIOs are only finished when the quality of the finished product is as high as it possibly can be. Leaders want everything that their team produces to be a sign of their commitment to excellence.

If you are an IT leader with these qualities, we want to hear from you. You can check out our latest vacancies or submit your CV to us. Alternatively, call 01675 466 477 and ask to speak to one of our expert IT recruitment consultants.

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Crimson is an IT consultancy, an IT solutions provider, an IT recruitment agency, and a Microsoft Gold Partner operating across the UK.

Topics: CIO, Leadership, Skills