Essential CIO skills to progress into a business leader

A chief information officer today is majorly involved in a company’s strategic development. Here are five must-have CIO skills to evolve into a business leader.

Playing a business leadership role requires many traits. CIOs are required to hone their skill sets to adjust to the new role, apart from just being technocrats.  Business leadership requires one to orient towards business i.e. business growth, high market share, profitability and continuously improving stakeholders’ value. To achieve this, we highlight a few crucial CIO skills.

1) Business acumen:  As part of the CIO skills required to become a successful business leader, the CIO should understand the business thoroughly to drive long-term business strategies for development and execution. It is very important to translate every action into a business context. For instance, deploying an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system is a technological decision, but the wonders it does for the company from the business side is remarkable.

2) Dilemma flipping:  To be a business leader, a CIO should have the ability to turn dilemmas (which, unlike problems, cannot be solved) into advantages and opportunities. Converting problems/crisis into opportunities is one of the greatest skills required by a CIO to be a perfect business leader.

3) Maker instinct: It is the ability to exploit one’s inner drive to build and grow things, as well as connect with others in the making. Innovation is key to success and growth and as a business leader, a CIO should be constantly on the toes to explore various avenues. Although this is a vital part of CIO skills, it is more prominently felt as a must for a business leader.

4) Taking ownership and responsibility: A business leader has more roles and responsibilities than a CIO. An important aspect of CIO skills is taking ownership for one’s decision. Not only does this earn a leader the respect of his team members, but also builds their trust in him. This faith in team leadership ensures better output. A CIO can pass the buck, but a business leader cannot.

5) Constructive depolarizing: It is the ability to calm tense situations where differences dominate and communication has broken down. As a part of CIO skills, the CIO should be capable of solving intra-team and inter-team issues and bring people from divergent cultures towards constructive engagement.

About the author: T.G Dhandapani is the group CIO at TVS Motor and Sundaram Clayton group. He has been with the group for over a decade and is responsible for the ERP implementation and development, implementation and maintenance of other IT strategies.

(As told to Anuradha Ramamirtham)

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