Soft leaders and hard managers

Last Tuesday evening I went along to one of the regular Computer Weekly 500 Club meetings where Bruno Laquet, CIO of Corus, was giving an interesting talk on the theme of “influencing across the organisation.” From the resulting Q&A session, it was clear that many senior IT leaders have some difficulty with this but I wonder whether this is sometimes a deliberate ploy by those who employ them. In other words, corporate management don’t want an IT leader with too many bright ideas, just somebody who can keep their critical systems operational and a safe pair of hands. I think a good subject for debate would be “The entrepreneurial CIO – who needs them?”

With that thought still fresh, I got into a discussion a couple of days later about a certain banking group that has recently made their CISO redundant. They’ve instead opted to rely on an international network of security project managers. Obviously it’s an appalling idea. Without co-ordination and control the atrophy will quickly set in. But I couldn’t help feeling when I heard the story that maybe there’s more to it: perhaps the CISO in question had poor influencing skills and was undervalued. Or maybe he was a git.

Either way, CIO or CISO, the “soft” skills are probably just as – if not more – important than the technical skills. Technical skills to build credibility as a manager. People, influencing and entreprenerial skills to be a leader.