As I was exploring the news on CIOs this Monday morning, I came upon this interesting article from Forbes, "The Evolving Role of the CIO: An interview with Geoffrey Moore [Part 2/2]."
There's a lot that I like in this interview - Mr. Moore has some great points on the need for the CIO to balance the three seemingly incompatible roles of visionary, pragmatist, and conservative. I think that's an excellent way to define the (seemingly) incompatible types of leadership that a CIO needs to deliver.
But Mr. Moore had one point that I'd like to discuss.
He says that, "You’ve got to have a thick skin. You have to be really good at prioritizing and frankly, telling people that they’re not a top priority when they aren’t. The CIOs who get in the most trouble are the ones who want to be liked."
Now, no executive with an overwhelming desire to be liked is going to succeed - or succeed for long. And every executive needs a fairly thick skin; that comes with a position of responsibility.
But I do think that Mr. Moore is stating the case too strongly. One of the very real challenges that IT professionals face is the perception of arrogance, the perception that technologists - both in the trenches and in the board room - see themselves as smarter than others because of their technical ability.
That perception can be true - but it's absolutely toxic in a C-level leader. I'm not saying, of course, that a good CIO can - or should be - "Mr. Nice Guy." He or she has a lot to do, and a lot of priorities to balance - and no CIO can get the job done if too much time is spent soothing egos.
But if too little time is spent on that? If too little time is spent communicating the value of IT? The respect for the requirements and business needs for every business unit in the enterprise?
That's toxic as well. And that perception of inaccessibility is - in my opinion - one of the key reasons for the growth of "Shadow IT."
So, while Mr. Moore makes some great points on the need to balance three very different roles, I think that balance needs to extend to balancing time, communication styles, and priorities so that stakeholders feel that the very real things they need from IT will be delivered.
So that those stakeholders don't try a DIY approach that's going to cause more problems. Because that's bad for the business. And can derail your CIO career growth.