As an organisation’s top IT leader, CIOs may think they possess the skills needed to help their organisations accelerate and stay competitive, but there are seven traits they require if they want to stand out in a rapidly changing world. This is according to Apoorva Chhabra, an associate principal analyst at Gartner.
“What got you here won’t take you far,” Chhabra said during a session on Tuesday, 19th October at the Gartner IT Symposium/Xpo. “It involves tasks that go well beyond checking a box.”
Being a digital leader today requires evolving your mindset; the way you take your leadership forward with some unique characteristics and traits, she said. The one critical element of running a digital business is to have the characteristics of effective leadership that reach beyond the norm and create greater value, she said. It has never been a more urgent time to be an effective digital leader, Chhabra said.
During her presentation, Chhabra outlined the SEVEN characteristics of a digital leader:
1. They are neophiliacs
A neophiliac is a person who has a love of novelty and everything new. They have a strong affinity to know what is happening in the world and are attracted to knowledge. Effective digital leaders have a deep desire to create new experiences for themselves.
Chhabra suggested that CIOs can execute a simple task, like something new on alternative weeks—or even every day. It must be habitual and does not need to involve much effort. For example, using a different way to start each virtual meeting.
2. They invent but also copy
When CIOs do improvise, it would be better for them to do so based on tested methods. They can invent occasionally, but they can also copy and improvise, she stressed.
She added that “as a digital leader, you should have an appreciation of where exactly your organisation needs to stand different, and where you need to copy and improvise.”
3. They eschew industry boundaries
Although leaders may like to know about market trends and what their competitors are doing, Chhabra advised CIOs not to make plans based on what they know about their industry but to rather force themselves to ask whether it is enough to simply follow what the industry standard dictates.
Instead of looking at direct competitors, CIOs should research what start-ups and niche players are thinking and doing. She suggested that CIOs should think beyond the traditional set of industry boundaries and more about “what do you think the digital dragon is thinking?”
4. They appreciate that innovation is more than just creativity
Chhabra said that innovation and creativity are not interchangeable. As an effective digital leader – CIOs also have to realise that innovation is more than just creativity,” but creativity is a necessary and major critical behaviour in the innovation process.
“Conventional leaders make the mistake of thinking they should focus just on creativity for the entire innovation process,” she said. As digital leaders, CIOs need to focus beyond creativity.
5. They build teams with high AQ (Adversity Quotient)
CIOs must ask if that is enough to pivot during uncertain times, even if they have all the right people in the right places within the enterprise.
Effective digital leaders ensure they are like a tennis ball, be able to bounce back and have a high AQ, which refers to the understanding of human resilience to deal with undesirable circumstances, suggested Chaabra.
Leaders should practice “positive visualisation” while letting team members know what outcomes they are expected to achieve. While a positive mentality has an inspiring effect on teams, at the same time, leaders should also practice negative visualisation for resilience. Not everything is going to happen as planned so it is important to look at outcomes as well as obstacles.
6. They never consider digital to be the outcome
Whilst many leaders may want their enterprises to become digital companies and transform their business models, Chhabra recommended that they should pause and ask themselves whether being digital is the company’s ultimate goal. She suggested that it is not.
Effective digital leaders understand this. They know digital is just a means, not an end.” Making everything digital doesn’t contribute to a greater value”, she said. Sometimes it decreases the value of the solution. She cited online grocery shopping as an example.
Ultimately, companies should focus on the things that matter, like what their value proposition is, an improved customer experience and the business outcome.
“Don’t treat digital as your only outcome,” she stressed.
7. They geek out on technology
Technology is an important ingredient, even though it should not be the only solution, suggested Chhabra. She added that it was OK to be considered a geek and not shy away from it. “Effective digital leaders don’t. They geek out on technology and encourage their teams and people to do that.” Being a geek brings one closer to knowing exactly what one’s business has at its base.
Chhabra’s final advice was to quote W. Clement Stone, founder of The Combined Insurance Company of America, who said, “Big doors swing on small hinges.”
She recommended starting small and focusing on two or three of these characteristics. That way, CIOs will not be overwhelmed and can capture them and practice them so they become everyday habits.