The CIO job: Mentor, visionary and evangelizer

SearchCIO.com scoured enterprise CIO job postings across 15 industry verticals. Here's the second part of our rundown of the 10 most desired talents.

This is the second part of SearchCIO.com's take on the 10 most coveted CIO job skills. We reviewed 30 CIO job advertisements posted by midsize to large enterprises across 15 industries. In the first part we outlined five must-have CIO talents, from industry expertise to negotiation know-how. Here, we finish our countdown of the top 10 CIO talents.

The value creator

Every CIO job ad we reviewed stressed that the person in the role would help create business value in some way and help the company gain a competitive advantage. A multibillion-dollar cosmetics company put it this way: "If you live, sleep, eat and breathe data and the challenges of harnessing it within an organization that operates in over 100 different countries and services over 300 million customers a year -- then please apply, so that we can talk more."

Many of the ads listed management experience and a Master of Business Administration degree as qualifications equal to or higher up on their list of criteria than a computer science degree or IT management experience.

Leverage IT as a strategic investment to drive business value.

This demand for business value creation by means of technology is nothing new to the readers of SearchCIO.com. For years we've covered the evolution of IT from cost center to value generator. Many of the CIOs we've spotlighted are monetizing IT and moving beyond IT and business alignment to the point where the role of the CIO blurs with the role of business leaders and strategists. These CIOs are expected to play an active part in business transformation. Job descriptions such as these two exemplify businesses' growing desire to have IT strategist and business strategist rolled into one:

"This function's primary focus is to create a competitive advantage and drive improvements in company performance and profitability." (From a national logistics company)

"Leverage IT as a strategic investment to drive business value, developing a multiyear IT strategy to transform the IT portfolio from its legacy technology to competitive industry standards." (From a retailer with more than 900 stores and outlets)

The mentor

To the many skills required of a CIO, those of educator and mentor now can be added. SearchCIO.com has written about this topic often, most recently in a CIO Matters column by Senior News Writer Linda Tucci. As these job descriptions demonstrate, CIOs are expected to act as mentor to their own staff, to business employees and to external customers.

"Promote diversity and foster teamwork, collaboration and a learning organization." (From an $11 billion energy company)

"Demonstrated ability to build, lead and mentor both business-oriented and technically oriented teams." (From an entertainment company with 40 million subscribers)

"Must have a track record of building a highly talented group of people who have delivered extraordinary services. Must be able to identify and execute on opportunities for team rebuilding." (From a Fortune 500 print and digital communication provider)

"Create a culture and facilitate communication between all IT leadership and their customers across the company." (From a national retailer)

The conflict resolver

When the call for a CIO who could be change agent and change advocate came up, it was often in the context of resolving conflicts:

"Ability to negotiate and defuse conflict." (From a confidential company listing in the energy field)

"Comfortable with resolving conflicting viewpoints and achieving consensus." (From a family-owned national manufacturer)

"An ability to drive decisions through consensus, influence change and effectively resolve conflicts." (From an entertainment company with 40 million subscribers)

"This will be an 'achiever' personality with a startup mentality who strives to resolve issues and roadblocks and meet goals on time." (From a global provider of optical and measurement products)

The IT champion

If you're not the rah-rah type, you might want to dust off those pompoms -- and muster up plenty of enthusiasm. Multiple ads called for a "champion" of the IT agenda. Here's a mash-up of a few job descriptions: "We are looking for a dynamic individual" who "inspires and motivates others" and has the "energy level required to meet the demand of the CIO position." Here are two more:

"Must have strong interpersonal skills and be willing to champion the IT strategy and architecture agenda." (From a headhunter ad representing a multinational company)

"Creating awareness of the investment and returns of development projects, prioritizing projects and investments across teams, and stimulating excitement within IT on generating new ideas are paramount." (From an entertainment company with 40 million subscribers)

The visionary

A crystal ball would be a nice-to-have, but it isn't necessary for the CIOs these companies covet. The desired candidate has been there and done that long enough to be able to spot and get ahead of technology trends. In fact, a common requirement in the CIO job ads was a minimum of 10 years running an IT organization. Bring on the visionaries:

"A visionary/futurist, recognized for innovation." (From a global IT service provider with 97,000 employees in 90 countries)

"Understand and communicate a vision for the future of information technology." (From a health care provider with a quarter million members)

"Define a vision for the role that information technologies in their various forms can play in our operations. Advocate for and develop resources to realize that vision." (From a religious institution)

Visionaries had better expect to get their hands dirty, however. In fact, if SearchCIO.com were to choose an 11th category, it would be "The hands-on leader," considering that -- aside from words like timely and fast -- the descriptor hands-on was peppered throughout most of the enterprise CIO job postings:

  • A hands-on approach and willing to get into the nuts and bolts of the job.
  • A sense of urgency, hands-on ability, high energy, and roll-up-your-sleeves attitude.
  • Hands-on leadership style with ability to get in the details when required.
  • Hands-on director who is passionate about leading a team and designing technical solutions which enable transformation to a highly scalable enterprise communication engine.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Christina Torode, News Director.

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