Can a CIO Become the Next CEO?

Michael Beck, Executive Coach & Business Strategist | 6/29/2012 | 120 comments

Michael Beck
Ever wonder why you don't see more CIOs getting tapped to become CEO of their company, especially in nontechnology companies? I did some research to find examples of CIOs who successfully transitioned into that CEO spot... and I didn't find any.

After reflecting on why this is so, I've distilled the reasons down to a few key issues. Though a good CIO is well versed in the technologies necessary to help the company succeed and understands how to help the team be productive, that's not quite enough to qualify that person for the top position.

For starters, a future CEO needs to be involved in all aspects of the business. You don't need to be an expert in all areas, but you do need to display some degree of business savvy in each area of the company, including finance, operations, sales, and marketing. Being knowledgeable in IT is important, but technology is just a tool for those disciplines -- not the means. Additionally, CIOs typically are analytical by nature, but a future CEO needs a high degree of emotional intelligence. You need to spend time developing people skills and leadership competencies to be able to lead a diverse team of professionals.

A good CEO also needs to be an excellent communicator, both internally (within the company) and externally (with clients, investors, and the community). Along the way, the CEO becomes a competent public speaker and a spokesperson for the company.

Finally, a CEO must have a vision for the company as a whole, not just for one department or another. You need to see the bigger picture, anticipate changes in the market, and learn to communicate that vision in a manner that inspires your team.

What can you do as a CIO to establish yourself as a candidate for the CEO spot? Here are some steps to take.

  • Enhance your emotional intelligence competencies. Take a 360-degree assessment, identify your areas of strength, and work to improve weaker competencies. Once your competencies are solid, practice using them throughout the organization to gain visibility.
  • Hone your public speaking skills. If you're not already an accomplished public speaker, join a Toastmasters club to refine your proficiencies. [Editor's Note: Or contact the editors of this site about joining us as a guest on our live shows.] Practice improving your presentation skills at every opportunity.
  • Become a student of sales, marketing, finance, and operations. Top executives are perpetual students. Spend time talking to individuals outside your department to learn as much as you can about what they do, how they do it, and the challenges they face.

Technology is finding its way into every part of the business. CIOs need to know more about the rest of the company than ever before. That makes it more realistic than ever that we will see CIOs take the big chair. By expanding your knowledge, your competencies, and your visibility, you'll position yourself as someone capable of standing at the helm of your organization. And you will place yourself at the top of the short list of CEO candidates.

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tjgkg   Can a CIO Become the Next CEO?   9/2/2012 7:37:08 PM
Re: Can a CIO Become the Next CEO?
Each culture is always going to evolve its thinking based upon their history.
Michael Beck   Can a CIO Become the Next CEO?   8/11/2012 12:26:49 PM
Re: Can a CIO Become the Next CEO?
@nimanthad - I don't exactly understand your comments.  They can be interpretted in different ways.  Could you restate them in a different way? and maybe expand on them?
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nimanthad   Can a CIO Become the Next CEO?   8/10/2012 11:42:28 PM
Re: Can a CIO Become the Next CEO?
Beck true but to be sucessful you should know other areas. The issue right now in everywhere is that you go for experiance. Does not care whether that person has relevant qualifications or not. Whther that person can adapt towards the changes o not. You have to get everything matched atleast upto 80% to make a good CEO.
Michael Beck   Can a CIO Become the Next CEO?   8/8/2012 12:31:53 PM
Re: Can a CIO Become the Next CEO?
@nimanthad - My comment pertains to knowledge in areas outside their area of expertise.  A CIO needs to be expert in their field, but does not need to be an expert in all the other areas of business.

They do, however, need to have an understanding of finance, operations, marketing, and sales if they want to become a CEO.
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nimanthad   Can a CIO Become the Next CEO?   8/8/2012 10:28:30 AM
Re: Can a CIO Become the Next CEO?
Well Beck do you feel that a person who does not have that much of a knowledge which he is being assigned for will do a better job if he just passes whatever the requirements being forwarded to him by his sub-ordinates ? I think that is where we lack. We need people who has a some sort of a knowledge level of the areas which he or she handles. If not its failiure in my book.
Michael Beck   Can a CIO Become the Next CEO?   8/6/2012 4:06:16 PM
Re: Can a CIO Become the Next CEO?
@nimanthad - No question about it.  Know;edge without being able to apply it is "interesting", but fairly useless.  On the other hand, one doesn't need to be an expert in order to use good judgement about the ideas put forth by others.
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nimanthad   Can a CIO Become the Next CEO?   8/6/2012 11:06:55 AM
Re: Can a CIO Become the Next CEO?
Yes true but they should always plan towads the future based on the past. That means a proper analysys is needed.
nimanthad   Can a CIO Become the Next CEO?   8/6/2012 10:50:16 AM
Re: Can a CIO Become the Next CEO?
Well true Beck but my point is that you simply cannot change the designations just becasue their domain knowledge on business process is the same. You need to know the subject well to handle the domian knowledge and apply towards it.
batye   Can a CIO Become the Next CEO?   8/3/2012 4:17:59 PM
Re: Can a CIO Become the Next CEO?
yes,but nothing is perfect, but like I said before we are lucky to live in the West...
tjgkg   Can a CIO Become the Next CEO?   8/3/2012 2:55:45 PM
Re: Can a CIO Become the Next CEO?
I agree with that! But sometimes it is culture that dictates those punishments. We are lucky that things are a bit more considered and not quite so severe in the West.
Page 1 / 12   >   >>


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