The CIO as ‘part Churchill, part Mother Theresa, part Kamikaze pilot’

The CIO as ‘part Churchill, part Mother Theresa, part Kamikaze pilot’

These 3 personalities encompass what Atti Riazi, CIO of the NYCHA (and former CIO of Ogilvy World Wide, as well as member of CIOs without borders) describes as her vision of the enlightened IT leader. An interesting combination.

These 3 historic personages as a definition of a CIO cover an intriguing and broad range of leadership skills

    • wartime negotiator and political champion,
    • saint with a mission to save the world,
    • and a focused attacker of the enemy, be that enemy a competitor or a problem.

Politics are at best a dodgy topic, but both Atti and Mark Stone, CIO of Safety-Kleen, acknowledge that politics are an inescapable fact of the workplace and any CIO or IT leader must successfully master them to succeed. But for Mark, politics are about building relationships, while for Atti, politics are about doing the right thing.

Mark views the CIO as an influencer who uses politics as a tool for relationship building within the “IT circle of life.”  The only way to change processes is through trusted relationships and relationships outlive transactions, so the next transaction depends on the trust built from all those transactions that came before.

We presume that politics destroys relationships by creating a losing side, but the real art to leadership is to make both sides of an issue feel like winners. Good relationships exist where there is a sense of collaboration, and that increases the chance that both sides will come out feeling like winners. Mark’s view on the importance of relationships also extends to his IT employees who “are not commodities.”

Atti says that when she uses the word “politics,” she is talking about decisions built around larger transformational issues that should be positive for the organization and for the customers, positive socially and environmentally, and that will result in greater revenue. If any of these is out of sync, then politics will be viewed negatively. Atti also suggests that IT has not had full political power. Its power has been limited to expertise or informational power, which is less effective. IT needs political power to deliver what is expected.

Readers, if you had to choose two to three iconic personalities to describe the CIO as a leader, who would you choose and why?

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CIO Talk Network

CIO Talk Network, Editor, CIO Talk Network

CIO Talk Network is a trusted resource for Business and IT Leaders offering targeted, real-life, in-depth, unbiased, and thought-provoking content and conversations on topics critical to their success. CTN features thought leadership direct... More   View all posts
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