The CIO Mindset that Wins · Leading Tech is Mostly About Leading People

CIO Mindset

With technology playing a more fundamental role in driving business success, IT leaders are increasingly being recognized for their potential to shape organizations’ business strategies. Yet despite the characterization of the modern CIO as a straight-up business leader and strategist, many CIOs still prioritize technical issues above all else. To deliver their greatest potential value, CIOs need to focus on the impact that digital transformation and tech has on business, rather than the inner workings of the tech itself. This requires a different approach to leadership than what some CIOs are used to, with an emphasis on an organization’s overarching needs. That people aspect is just as crucial as the technological details.

Technology Should Drive Business Impact

CIOs must first realize that digital transformation isn’t just a technical expense but a driving force behind business growth. In our modern business environment, technology serves as the backbone of business operations and customer interactions. This is why Innovation Vista always brings an ROI-driven business mindset to all our engagements. While many firms will suggest things that could be better with IT, we focus on the specific business results that our IT enhancements can deliver. The same mindset is something that any good CIO should have, as they are the ones most capable of delivering these meaningful benefits. 

Being a CIO is About More Than Just Technology

Of course, even as IT leaders embrace the transformative potential of the technologies they work with, they must also understand that being a good CIO is about more than just technology. Rather than being a technical leader focusing on the operational side of technology, a good CIO should act as a business leader, collaborating with colleagues in operations, finance, and sales to come up with ways technology can empower and enable new business strategies and capabilities. This effectively means acting as an “intrapreneur” who identifies growth opportunities and promotes innovation. 

The Importance of Servant Leadership

To effectively deliver on this new CIO approach, IT leaders must embrace a new leadership strategy altogether: servant leadership. While many in IT get used to taking a more autocratic approach, insisting that they know best and dictating how things should be done, a servant leader puts their people first. These types of leaders reflect on how they, as a mentor, have an impact on the individuals they oversee. They work to bring out the best of everyone on the team, creating a compelling vision and helping people realize their place in making it a reality. This also means moving away from the long-standing IT approach of solving other people’s problems or handing them easy answers, instead helping people grow and upskill themselves to be more effective with the tools at their disposal. All of this requires IT leaders to strengthen their “soft skills”, such as listening, self-reflection, and empathy

Helping Others Work Smarter 

One of the distinctions between an effective servant leader and a more technically-minded leader is understanding people’s limits. Leaders often encourage people to “work harder”, but people ARE working harder and tend to feel burnt out and overwhelmed as a result. By being more empathetic and employee-driven, IT leaders can avoid working “harder” and encourage people to work “smarter”. This means utilizing AI and tech when responsible to help us manage more tedious tasks, as well as learning to delegate and share task burdens with our teams appropriately. After all, what good are these new technologies if they aren’t making things easier for us? 

The Power of Culture in Business

Perhaps the most important lesson modern CIOs need to learn is that even when delivering on their strategic leadership potential, they aren’t the only force driving transformative change. Digital transformation can drive business success, but it requires a supportive company culture to maintain an effective transformation plan. This is why the more robust and human-driven approach to CIO leadership is so important: technology-focused leaders might know how to apply digital technologies in a way that generates business value, but a more human-centered leader knows how to make people understand that value and help them embrace it. This is why the modern CIO must be more than a mere technical role: leading technology is mostly about leading people.