The number of times that a CIO or CTO has been promoted to the CEO’s position is pitifully low – and where it has happened it is almost exclusively reserved to the IT or information industries.
But according to Dr Robina Chatham, who has conducted scientific research into that all-too-rare transition, CIOs are not necessarily being held back from the top spot. In fact, she has discovered that 62% of CIOs have no desire to be a CEO. Their reasons, she says, were that they enjoyed their current positions, that they liked the technical work, or that they didn’t think they had the necessary skills.
Their priorities were more likely to be a healthy work/life balance, health and happiness. Only 6.5% saw their chief goal as becoming a successful CIO.
Indeed, in a separate study, she found that even those CIOs that do become CEOs were not especially ambitious. “But they were interested in learning and took an interest in wider matters,“ she says. “In general, they took the job because it was an intellectual challenge.”
And ironically it is this unambitious streak that makes CIOs good candidates for the CEO position, says
‘Level 5 leaders’, as Collins describes them, exhibit “a paradoxical combination of personal humility and professional will”.
And these qualities were common among the CIOs-turned-CEOs that
But to say that they were not driven by ego does not suggest they were not confident; quite the opposite, she says: “They were supremely confident in their own abilities; they just didn’t need a job title to prove it.”
And as the means of collaboration increasingly come under the jurisdiction of the IT department (see The evolution of the CIO), that is an opportunity ripe for the plucking.
The evolution of the CIO
A new role is emerging for the chief information officer that puts IT’s top executive in charge of business collaboration, innovation and change management. But what qualities will be needed by the ‘new CIO’?