History offers up a variety of traits for the best leaders. India’s Bagavad Gita says effective leaders are resilient, selfless, compassionate, and self-aware. The philosopher Plato thought every great leader would need a tripartite form of education which included physical education, logic, and harmony and be interested in wisdom and knowledge.
Sun Tzu’s five traits included intelligence, credibility, humanness, courage and discipline. Machiavelli’s definition included a leader who was feared, had the support of his people, offered good virtues, could rely on his own arms, and was intelligent. More recently, Author Joseph Rost reviewed 100 years of literature looking for one definition, but found over 200 ways of defining leadership. However, good management was mentioned in a majority of them.
CIOs will have three options when it comes to transformation.
“What is the path to enlightenment if we have so many different opinions about leadership?” says Alvaro Mello, vice president at Gartner, during his session at at Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in Barcelona, Spain. “There are a set of recommendations you can follow to become a truly transformational leader.”
According to Mello, CIOs will have three options when it comes to transformation. They will either refuse to acknowledge the need to transform, decide they’ll be retired before transformation is necessary, or CIOs can change their own path to achieve enlightenment.
Mello presented five basic disciplines CIOs must acknowledge along the way.
1. Improve your emotional intelligence
Emotional intelligence is about self awareness, knowing yourself, your environment and managing relationships. CIOs need to be able to control their emotions. “It’s about you making a decision on what kind of reaction you're going to have when you’re in one of those boring meetings or angered by something someone said in the meeting,” says Mello. “You can choose your own reactions and be in control.” This will take practice and requires that CIOs pay attention to their relationships. CIOs are always busy and involved with the technical aspects of the job, but should spend at least one third of their time dedicated to relationships outside the department.
2. Become a trusted ally
All CIOs fall into four categories concerning how they relate to CEOs: At-risk, transactional, partner, and trusted ally. The goal should be to become a trusted ally who is considered a business leader responsible for the IT department and not just a service provider. This type of CIO proposes portfolio and service options that the business should pursue versus letting the company decide. CIOs should become influencers and become involved in the business. Make the choice to devote 75% of your time on relationships happening outside the IT department.
3. Act as a bimodal leader
CIOs should be able to see two different paths in their brain: Mode 1 and Mode 2. Focus on the leadership part of bimodal over setting policies or writing a memo. Give the team the freedom to experiment and innovate. Create examples of how bimodal can improve business units and pitch it during a meeting. Empower people to make the changes happen.
4. Play the tribal leader
David Logan established five stages of tribal culture in his book, Tribal Leadership. In his research, Logan learned that culture matters more than leadership. He also created the idea of a triad where meetings always include three leaders so it doesn’t become an emotional argument between two points of view. Instead, the third person is able to help mediate and build relationships and helps to work on the relationship between the first two. These relationships will allow the CIO to initiate changes and ultimately impact the culture of the company.
5. Become a Platonic leader
Based on Plato’s teachings, CIOs should physically exercise to improve overall outlook. Consider learning to play a musical instrument to improve how you learn. As it turns out, even leadership advice from ancient Greece has something to offer.