Mark McDonald

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Mark P. McDonald
GVP EXP
8 years at Gartner
24 years IT industry

Mark McDonald, Ph.D., is a former group vice president and head of research in Gartner Executive Programs. He is the co-author of The Social Organization with Anthony Bradley. Read Full Bio

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Which President would make the best CIO?

by Mark P. McDonald  |  February 18, 2013  |  Comments Off

It is President’s Day in the U.S. a public holiday recognizing the 44 leaders of the United States.  Who is the greatest President?  How do the President’s stack up?  How do they rank against each other?   Responding to these questions is the work of academics and political pundits.  I asked this question back in 2009 and so it seems like a good time to revisit the idea.

Which of these Presidents would make a good CIO?  Let me propose some names that go beyond the obvious nominations of Washington, Lincoln, FDR, etc.

James K. Polk – the 11th President of the United States.  He set out a few goals for his administration and when he achieved them he did not run for a second term.

William Howard Taft – the 27th President who was also the only President to then go on to serve in the U.S. Supreme Court as Chief Justice.

What kind of CIOs would our last two Presidents make?  Here are some thoughts.

Barack Obama, our current president, might be considered more of an executive consultant than a CIO.  He is adept with technology, the first to use a PDA.  But his approach to the job is more consultative based on observing his policy statements that tend to be broad and aspirational, the chiding tone of his speeches and his relationship with Congress in which he is one part of the stalemate.  These are attributes of a CIO as consultant who is attempting to push an agenda forward, move a status quo and is not too concerned about building the relationships for the long term.  Such an approach is often required to drive transformation, or in this case push major legislation.

George W. Bush, the prior president is like a CIO who becomes overwhelmed by events.  He is the CIO as chief security officer in many ways.  In the case of the CIO it is often a major IT transformation, like an ERP project gone wild.  Bush’s eGoverment agenda and structure of his administration with a formal CIO, reflect solid practices and good ideas but ones that were overwhelmed by other events.

These are just ideas and it would be great to ask which Presidents do you think would have made great CIOs.  I say CIOs because while the President is the Chief of the executive branch and head of government he is not the CEO of the United States.

The President’s role is more like a CIOs role than you would think.  CIOs and Presidents mush blend the strategic with the tactical; the role requires deft operational skill combined with visionary leadership.  Policy and process are tools available to both executives.  CIOs work in a world where they control much, but command little requiring them to work with others in a constructive way.  Those are all hallmarks of an effective President one that inspires and implements ideas that improve the nation.

So what do you think on this President’s Day?

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Category: Personal Observation     Tags: ,