So you want to be a CEO?





This is a question that frequently raised its head during my tenure as a CIO. Almost as frequently as: does CIO stand for ‘Career is Over?’

There are certainly examples in which CIOs have risen to the rank of CEO. Generally these tend to relate to either company restructures that have seen the emergence of new business subsidiaries under a larger parent, or more typically internal ICT organisations that have restructured as ICT Companies, possibly from what Gartner terms as Internal Services Companies (ISCos). So, yes it can happen!
If that is your aspiration, I’ve provided five tips below to help you to make it happen.  They comprise:

 

·        Step one – Gaining Acceptance

·        Step two – Achieving Parity

·        Step three – Adopting a CEO Champion

·        Step four – Extenuating the Positives

·        Step five – Establishing your Virtual Footprint




Each is outlined below.




1.     Gaining Acceptance
The fact that CIOs are generally well represented around the ‘Top Table’ these days, removes one significant barrier to career escalation. As senior executives, CIOs get the opportunity to get to know the CEO and possibly members of the Board or Government whichever it happens to be. At the same time, they will have dwelled in the same pastures and to a large extend fed from the same trough as their senior executive colleagues. Above all else they should (if they’ve done their job well) have gained a whole of business perspective as well as fostering a degree of mutual respect and support.

2.     Achieving Parity
At least CIO’s can consider themselves to be alongside the likes of the Chief Finance, Strategy, Operating and or Procurement Officers in the line to the Head Hunter’s door, or can they?
I’ve worked with at least one CFO who has subsequently been appointed as CEO for another organisation and I’ve worked with a variety of other business executives that have done the same. Backgrounds have included Procurement, Engineering and assortment of Business Operational Executive Managers. The experiences differ but they do tend to have some things in common:
·        Most have a solid tertiary qualification;
·        Most have done more than one senior executive role;
·        Most have taken the lead in a significant change/transformation program;
·        All have been driven towards CEO attainment.


3.     Adopting a CEO Champion
Another important factor is that all of them have been mentored and supported by a sponsoring CEO. There is nothing quite like having a well-respected CEO in your corner to champion your cause, to mentor you through the teething troubles or to kick start you on the trail to being a CEO. It is a sure way to attach credibility to your aspirations.

4.     Extenuating the Positives
But there are also a few factors in your favour as a CIO:
·        Likelihood of a strong connection with transformational initiatives?
·        Familiarity with many other parts of business operations and offering a unique perspective?
·        Experience with good governance and service delivery and/or shared services?
·        Tertiary qualified?
·        More than a passing familiarity of the potential for ICT to generate business value.
The first thing to do is to articulate your value proposition.  I suggest using, practising and refining this as an elevator pitch. Then you’ll need to find a nurturing CEO (not the simplest of task in itself) to get you moving in the right circles and elevate your profile. In the interests of achieving parity, a sideways step into an alternative Executive Management role might round-off your preparation.

5.     Establishing your virtual Footprint
Today the tools are at hand to help you to establish and raise your profile on a local, national and international basis. Tools like LinkedIn, Twitter and even Facebook are all at your disposal through which you can boost your virtual presence. Twitter and Blogs especially offer a means to get your views and opinions across, all of which can help to establish your reputation. You may also want to investigate how to accumulate your Klout score via Klout.com to represent the extent to which ‘you influence the world!’ Keep in mind of course that both good and bad reputations can be made over night!
At the same time, presenting at industry events and getting involved with industry bodies and associations can create openings through which you might display your talents. In other words, plan to migrate from being seen as a company champion to being revered as an industry champion.

In the meantime, as for me I think I’ll just stick to my ‘vowel theory’. That is in terms of my aspirations of moving from ex-CIO to CEO, I’ll continue to dispute the rule that suggests it should be “I comes before E, except after C”!

 

Tony Welsh
Associate Partner, Information Professionals

Tony has over 30 years experience as an ICT professional including 15 years in Chief Information Officer (CIO) roles. His particular skills include ICT and business strategic planning, program management, business and ICT alignment and stakeholder management. He is particularly valuable for organisations seeking to get more out of their ICT investments and/or to use ICT to transform their organisation.

 

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