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Three Questions: Movin' on up at the C-level

Are you a CIO who wants to become a CEO? Here's what you need to know.

With Mark Polansky, managing director of the Information Technology Center of Expertise for Korn/Ferry International, a provider of executive search, outsourced recruiting and leadership development solutions. Polansky is one of the authors of a report called "CIO to CEO."

Question: Is it becoming more common for CIOs to move into the CEO position? Why or why not?
Polansky: It's a fairly well-established practice for CIOs to become CEOs at technology-oriented companies. But are they becoming CEOs of non-technology-oriented companies? There have been only a few cases where this has occurred. We expect to see it happen more frequently, however. Companies of all kinds are becoming more information-driven, so the idea of having someone at the top who has a understanding of the enterprise and how everything works together is appealing. The CIO has probably the second- or third-best view of the entire enterprise, the kind of top-down, holistic view that is very valuable in a CEO or other top manager.

Question: In your research, what were some of the major differences you encountered between CIOs and CEOs?
Polansky: CIOs tend to be more analytical and slower to make decisions. They are more oriented to gathering as much information as possible and getting buy-in from as many parties as possible. They don't mind spending a lot of time to make a decision. CEOs make quicker decisions, especially under pressure. Good or bad, they are more inclined to use their gut instincts.

Question: What are some steps CIOs interested in moving into the CEO spot can take to improve their chances?
Polansky: The good news is that becoming more action-oriented is a learnable skill, and it can be coached if it's missing from a list of the CIO's attributes. CIOs interested in becoming a CEO should seek out mentoring and training and situations where they can practice this type of decision-making. CIOs also should think seriously about getting an MBA and should plan on spending a lot of time working with their peers to understand how the company works -- its business plan, the competitive landscape, the market dynamics. CIOs who can offer the whole package -- a strong business orientation along with more visibility as a decision-driven leader -- have the makings of a good general manager.

This 3 Questions originally appeared in a weekly report from IT Business Edge.

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