What I Really Want Is a Business Partner . . .

My friend Mark Polansky leads the CIO practice at Korn/Ferry International. He's been keeping a close eye on the industry for a very long time, and I respect his opinions greatly.

I asked him recently to list the qualities that CEOs and executive boards look for in a new CIO. Here's what he told me:

Well, the conversation turns really quickly to leadership, because leadership is what separates great executives from ordinary executives. They also look for vision, passion, wisdom, confidence, and charisma.

Clients often tell Mark that they are looking for someone who is persuasive without being overbearing, knows when to take risks (and when not to), and is creative but also realistic, supportive but firm, principled, honest, fair, and open. Very few clients mention specific technical knowledge or expertise.

“All things being equal, someone with a strong technical background is likely to be more successful, but I think what's equally important is the ability to attract top performers. In other words, the CIO has to be a talent magnet,” says Mark.

James Satterthwaite of Egon Zehnder International put it this way at a recent CIO Roundtable hosted by my company, HMG Strategy, and the Boston chapter of the Society of Information Managers (SIM):

The board members sense that the CIO position is more important than ever, but they can't always put their feelings into words. Often they'll say that they're looking for a business partner. What ...

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