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.