Outstanding CIO/CDO-Leadership is about refraining from nonsense too

Outstanding CIO/CDO-Leadership is about refraining from nonsense too

An answer to the Cathy Holley at 15th November 2017 ‘The Key Competencies of an outstanding CIO/CDO- Leadership’

Being in IT leadership positions since about 25 years in a professional career up to a CIO, as member of the board in a wall street-listed company, I believe I could have a well-founded opinion about what it takes to achieve outstanding leadership:

Maybe the most important nonsense first:

1. Fulfilling a certain list of ability categories, characteristics, personality, whatever, DOES NOT mean you’re an outstanding leader – or even a high potential candidate

Every time (interestingly literally ever time) when leadership success shows up, this very person is amid all interest. At this time (but not before) the people notice these personal attributes which led to success – the same attributes, almost no one found to be noteworthy before. But leadership capabilities were there, all the time.

According to current state of science there are no similarities between the personal attributes of successful leaders – or a leadership gene-nonsense.

2. Leadership is not management or even people administration

Unlike the statements of Ms. Holley, structuring the team, manage performance, build metrics or plan succession – this is management, not leadership. Leaders push change and people, while managers keep control of the change process. A change or a full-blown transformation with good managers and bad leaders would develop plans, build-up budgets, fail to transport a plausible necessity argumentation of change to the people (which usually have to pay for it) and would control people more than enabling them.

Because of this difference digital single visionaries (e.g. CDOs) often fall behind expectations, CIOs fail when they position themselves about digital transformation as a question of integration only, and single acting CIOs (with come consultants) isolate themselves in fast changing business environments.

3. Leadership success is not about styles, it’s about goal-achieving

Success in leadership is created when effective behavior is shown in matching situations and is measured by achieved goals. The history of mankind is full of examples about people shown outstanding leadership success in one situation and showed almost nothing in the next – because it’s NOT about style.

This is why asking 100 business leaders about their definition of leadership makes no sense.

4. ‘Inspirational leadership’ is not always a good thing

Charismatic leaders have followers, because there is action and entertainment. But these kinds of inspirational leaders are a general risk – to everyone. Because of their effects on people they are always exposed to temptations and unnecessary risks. In history, charismatic leaders led almost every time into a disaster, if they were allowed to.

Real outstanding leaders have followers, because the people trust him and his judgement. These leaders have self-discipline and lead by example – not by slogans and hurray-shouting’s.

Another example:

‘Difficult’ intimidating leaders, usually override the well-being of the single employee. They express themselves very clear and are very indignant if the results are not good enough or needed too long. They are masters of relevant facts and stand behind their people, not in front of them. Of course: they are stressful, because they demand a lot fairly. They are painful, because they push their requests, and annoying because they change the game to eliminate useless traditions.

But this behavior makes them ideal turn around-leaders, and someone to follow – but not one to be inspired of. But this you wouldn’t find in complex diagrams in books, of course.


Frank Hilderts, Interim CIO

HILDERTS & Partner

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