Monday, November 04, 2013
Chief Introvert Officer
One of the common perceptions about CIOs is that they are introverts, they like to keep their mouth shut and rarely speak up in meetings or conferences or for that matter anywhere at all. Socially they are people unfriendly and communicate only with their kith and kin and that too in tongues that are not listed in the languages of the world. The geeky and nerdy persona of the IT populace has been slow to dissolve largely fueled by consumerization of what was earlier the stronghold of the chosen tech few.
Technology and various things attached with IT are no longer mystic and find print space in the digital world and mainstream business and social publications. Across age groups and social strata the adoption of smart devices (phones, tablets and everything in between) led to discussion on apps moving away from enterprise to marketplace/store, now cost a Dollar or more shedding many zeros to insignificance. Complexity associated with writing apps was dispelled by teenagers putting big enterprise software to shame.
Written to death the “alignment” with different parts of the company, CIO and IT shed the comforting façade to embrace the language of business. They rose to the occasion and reversed the belief that they could not take on lateral roles or get a seat on the table. In fact many today know technology as much as their business brethren even when they still lead the technology function. They also know where to source the skill or answer to the next challenging and disruptive hype as and when it raises its head.
CIOs share stage with other CXOs and leaders with equal ease discussing and debating macro-economic trends, customer centricity, or strategic directions. They are not waiting in the wings to be called to action; they are seizing the initiative to find revenue improvement, cost and process efficiencies or for that matter how to retain market share. M&A is no longer complete without their involvement, nor is divestment; CIOs have taken on HR, Supply Chain, and Finance along with their existing portfolio with ease.
Why is it that this perception has not changed despite the fact that new age CIOs are different from their ancestors by a huge margin ? What contributes to continued opinion of the CIO’s personality ? Are CIOs really introverts who love technology to no end ? Is evolution restricted to a few CIOs who have transitioned or has it gained critical mass with the majority now walking on the right side ? Or is it that the title has now been conferred on the undeserved IT Manager by virtue of his/her being the senior most IT professional in the company ?
I surveyed my network of CIOs and asked a few friends to do the same to qualify the numbers from all they knew to carry a title of CIO or equivalent. They were asked to rate and create two buckets; CIOs and IT Heads yet to portray characteristics now associated with CIOs. While the result may have been subjective, it helped in classification that started making some sense. We discussed and debated and unanimously agreed on some; the list had a 30:70 split with the smaller segment being CIOs.
The reasons were varied and we believed that we did a fair assessment; anyone with less than 10 year experience or company revenue below a mark was not tagged; the balance was the total set. We then looked at the 30% and observed that 80% of the set were quite vocal and articulate; they were well placed and rarely found themselves tongue-tied. They had truly overcome the perception and their reputations preceded them; whenever they were invited to any gathering like magnets they attracted others to themselves.
I have rarely found the confident and articulate to be introverts or the other way round; semantically that is the definition of extrovert and that ability and confidence comes from success. Articulation is another matter with some reveling in smaller groups and some at ease in all settings. The question really is “Is being introverted a bad thing ?” I don’t think so; it is a behavioral trait which sometimes chooses you. I believe that for a leader what matters is the right attitude and the ability to get results !