Hands up who’s heard of Academy for Leadership Development (ALD)?  Didn’t know Gartner ran such a thing?  I’m proud to say we do, in Executive Programs APAC, and we’re just coming off a high from back-to-back sessions in Brisbane and Sydney.  We’re going into our third year of running academy in the region and slowly trying to draw committed technologists out of their cubicles where they happily e-mail colleagues in the cubicle next door.  Who, equally happily, e-mail back.   They present 200-page technology-laden strategies and don’t understand why the business avoids them in the corridor.

Ok, so a little exaggeration but many of the people who walk into ALD on day one are a little different when they walk out.  “It’s the  things we didn’t know that we didn’t know!” said one student leaving the Sydney session.  If we can affect just a small mindset shift towards seeing the world like a business leader, as opposed to a technology manager, we can only be happy.   “It’s encouraged me how to think like a business leader, rather than just through an IT filter,” Sydney delegate. “Most valuable was breaking my technology mindset,” Brisbane.

 I was in a client workshop yesterday where one of the attendees (a recent ALD graduate) corrected his use of “alignment”, as in alignment of IT to the business.  Hooray!  The point being, IT is as much the business as any other department, not something separate that needs bringing into line.  Or it should be.

 At ALD, we talk about strategy, governance and leadership from a business perspective.  CIO leadership capabilities, digital leadership and politics.  Branding, and communications using storytelling techniques.  It’s not unusual to hear comments about IT being misunderstand … and whose responsibility it is to change that?  (Hint: it begins with “I”.)  Hopefully some of our alumni will take on the challenge.  

 Soft skills and emotional intelligence are perhaps the sessions that surprise attendees most.  They are capabilities that leaders need but are neglected terribly in the IT space.  There’s an expectation that great technology managers who tick all of the skills boxes will pick up a CIO role with relative ease.  It’s less and less true, and one of the CIO interview participants talked about the tough six months he spent with a personal coach when he was turned down from a CIO role he expected to walk into.  With the technical edges knocked off him and a new way of looking at the world, he secured the role second time around.  

 Interestingly, personal branding captured much interest this time and subsequently triggered discussions about value statements, profiles, CVs and presence on LinkedIn.  The executive recruiter interviews that close academy pulled it all together and brought a reality check to the room.  It’s a tough market out there, and competition for CIO roles is coming strongly from outside of IT.  

The takeaways, dear aspiring CIO … you’re an IT manager because you do your job well, on time, on budget!  To hit the C-suite, you need to think differently.  Think like a leader, learn to communicate and be part of the business.  Understand that everything you do has to have a business value and should be justified that way.  IT for IT’s sake isn’t enough.  It’s time to step back, learn some self-awareness and write that elevator pitch that will put you on the board’s radar.

 It’s an exciting time to be in IT…for those CIOs who think and walk like business leaders.

 If you would like to learn more please contact amanda.hatten@gartner.com.  Remaining this year are sessions in Mumbai (7-9 May) and Singapore (20-22 August).