The CIO Edge provides a unique view on leadership. — the leaders. Too often books on leadership either describe leader behaviors in abstract and academic terms or in self-serving prose colored by the author’s admiration for the leader. The CIO edge is different in that it let’s the leaders speak in their own words and share their own stories. In the process you gain an insight on leadership in the first person.
Waller, Hollenbeck and Rubenstruck are clear that this book is about the personal side of leadership. Some would call it the ‘soft’ side compared to harder specific management and leadership techniques like governance.
Readers looking for advice and insight on these personal aspects of leadership will find strong material that describes not only what leadership means but provides you with insight in the minds of accomplished leaders. Achieving that goal requires hearing from leaders talk about their experiences in the first person and providing food for thought and reflection rather than a simple multi-step recipe to follow.
The authors break CIO leadership skills into the following areas that are necessary to drive results. Each skill is discussed in its own chapter with insights provided by accomplished leaders from companies like P&G, FEDEX, Kimberly Clark, Ford, among others.
1, Commit to leadership first, everything else second
2. Lead differently than you think
3. Embrace your softer side
4. Forge the right relationships, drive the right results
5. Master communications: always and all ways
6. Inspire others
7. Build people, not systems
These seven skills provide a great refresher and remind you that the way you lead is very important. These skills and the analysis of what it takes to be an effective leader are based on a study of more than 120,000 executives and that body of research highlights the characteristics of successful and less than successful leaders.
While the book is entitled The CIO Edge, the leadership lessons are broadly applicable to executives and managers in IT as well as the rest of the enterprise.
In many ways, the leading CIOs who share their stories are describing the requirements for every future executive who faces the need to deliver current results, work with others to resolve issues, build personal credibility up and down the organization and constantly be ready for the future. These are all parts of the CIOs job today and requirements for an effective executive in the future.
Recommended reading, particularly for executives and managers who are wondering why they have to rely too heavily on their technical abilities to lead by example rather than leading through creating a team of capable people. The book may not please people who are looking for a recipe, as I believe that this is not the author’s point. Rather think of this as a book to read and reflect on the experience of these leaders and how their ‘ah hah’ moments apply to your situation.
The book concentrates on leaders speaking in their own words. This may make it seem that the authors were just reporting what they have been told, but each story is well placed to illustrate one of the seven points.
The book reflects a solid research foundation both in terms of its use of a study of 120,000 people and Waller’s use of Gartner research. This gives the book a solid foundation, which is particularly important given the author’s focus on the ‘softer side’ issues.
The book is focused and well written at a little under 200 pages. This makes it accessible for the busy executive and while the book repeats itself in some places, it is an overall good read.
The seven leadership skills in the CIO Edge are applicable broadly across executes and not just to executives in IT.
There is no seven-step program for the seven skills. While there is a call to action at the end of each chapter, people looking for a simple recipe in this book will not find it. That is a challenge for people wanting to improve themselves by applying the seven skills. These skills, like any skill are learned not implemented and the authors have wisely focused the book on building an understanding of the skills that can help fuel your personal reflection and adoption.
The challenges of CIOs form the context for the book rather than its detailed content. The book chooses to concentrate on softer skills that are often generally applicable; second the concentration on leadership is more universal than situation specific. The book mentions but it does not dwell or concentrate heavily on the specific leadership challenges facing CIOs. People looking to read a book about the technical elements of being a CIO should look to Broadbent and Kitiz’s The New CIO Leader as these two books compliment each other.
While the book is focused and well written some of the themes and ideas like IT delivering business value are repeated throughout the book. Its not a big issue, but readers will notice it after the first few chapters.
Overall a good addition to the work on what it takes to lead in a technology intensive world. A book that compliments and completes with others looking at the CIO role and rounding out the materials that support CIOs, IT leaders or really any executive that faces the leadership challenge.