Dalibor Siroky, CEO and Co-Founder at Plutora, advises on the steps to take to progress from a CIO to a CEO.
Some career changes could be deemed a stretch too far, but is that the case for moving from CIO to CEO? Though it may come as a surprise, this jump is less of a leap than you might expect. A CIO’s role involves whole business evaluation just as a CEO’s does and therefore someone in this position already has the foundations to become the successful leader of an enterprise business. Put simply, the road from CIO to CEO is almost as easy as going from A to B.
Building foundations with the ‘I’
A CIO manages the use of IT within the business as a whole and as such, serves every other functional aspect of the company. It is imperative that the CIO is on top of implementing suitable technology across the board to streamline, optimise and promote strategic business benefits. This means a CIO’s IT strategy will satisfy the needs of the business and in doing so, will recognise and understand at least in some small part the specific details of what it takes to run every area both efficiently and effectively. Not only this, but also how each area fits together to enable the smooth functioning of the business.
In 2018 we have seen how technology is fundamental; leveraging it effectively is a strategic imperative to business outcomes – now more than ever – and that trend is showing no signs of slowing down. A successful CIO needs to be a transformational leader – someone who drives their team to work towards a common goal through setting the right examples and inspiring communication of shared values and vision. Fundamentally, a CIO should be motivating the team to achieve higher performance by appealing to their sense of purpose and validating how each is integral to the bigger business picture – keeping the business running.
Therefore, while the CIO is in theory only responsible for the business’ technology, it is a far more business-centric role that requires understanding the overarching business objectives, compiling the strategy and driving the roadmap to achieve these goals, and providing the dependability and commitment to the business, the team and to operating with excellence.
A change in thinking for the ‘E’
It’s these same abilities and skills that are critical to fulfilling the role of CEO successfully. The CEO is relied upon to set the business objectives, strategy, goals and vision for the whole company to follow; the CEO will therefore need to have a strong understanding of the possible challenges that could occur, the risks worth taking and the ones to avoid. This task requires the skill and experience to take a comprehensive view of the business as a whole – every department, job, action and reaction – to see every part as one harmonised machine, set the goals and map out how to achieve them.
Communication is arguably a CEO’s most important skill: communicating business objectives that are understandable and relatable to employees and their role in helping to achieve them; communicating strategies and expectations to shareholders and stakeholders alike and recognising that their relationship with the company should be mutually profitable and beneficial; and communicating the product or service to customers and prospects. A CEO must be able to illustrate clear, open and effective communication to inspire, persuade and convince, to suit a range of audiences.
A CEO must also practice transformational leadership – the ability to set the tone of the business by example to motivate employees and attract new talent. This reigns true for new businesses just starting out as well as for well-established enterprises. A successful CEO must create the right conditions for recruiting and retaining the best talent across the business in every functional area. Having the right people in the right jobs and inspiring them to lead the charge, a CEO should be able to trust every employee to execute the business strategy with excellence.
And finally, a CEO needs to understand the power of the appropriate and effective use of technology. Technology is the engine that fuels success in this day and age, and having a solid comprehension of the technologies out there that make the seemingly impossible, possible is critical. Keeping up to date on the latest market trends is key as innovation is everywhere and it is with this in mind that having the background of a CIO makes perfect sense.
The journey from I to E
Similarities run throughout these two roles, so much so that a CIO is like a CEO in training. Both positions rely on a thorough understanding and dedication to business requirements, a full commitment to working with distinction and the ability to manage expectations of and deliver them to employees, customers and partners. A CIO and CEO must both be able to communicate business strategy and vision in a way that will rejuvenate and empower employees, along with anyone who has an impact on the business. But most importantly, both must value and show commitment to these employees in order for them and the business as a whole to motivate, grow and succeed.
So if anyone ever asks if a CIO can become a CEO, the answer is a resounding ‘yes’.