3 more CIO malfunctions that undermine your ability to perform as an executive leader, by Joe Scherrer.

CIO Malfunctions

 OK CIOs, admit it. Your fun meter is pegged.

  • You’re pulled in a thousand directions at once, holding on by your fingernails at times just to keep the IT infrastructure running (and secure).

  • You find it incredibly difficult to communicate the business impact of IT to your C-suite colleagues.

  • You’re under pressure to deliver tangible business results, but you don’t have (and can’t get) the resources you need to make it happen.

In a previous article, I talked about four CIO malfunctions that compromise your ability to take your rightful place as a bona fide executive leader in your organization. They are:

  1. You have a Software Bug: You have low emotional intelligence, including your ability to manage your own emotions and respond appropriately to the emotions of others.

  2. You suffer from Syntax Error: Your communication skills are poor, especially when providing concrete, coherent guidance to your team and when articulating the strategic case for IT.

  3. Your Access is Denied: Your credibility to the business is so low that you are not included in the executive-level decision making process.

  4. You experience frequent Buffer Overflow: You are unable to plan, organize, and delegate. As a result, you’re in a perpetual state of overwhelm, fighting fires, and reacting to events rather than influencing and directing them.
If you've already implemented a quality assurance program for yourself and are on the way toward fixing these four malfunctions, good for you. You’re not out the woods yet, however. Here are three more CIO malfunctions that, if not addressed, critically undermine your ability to perform as an executive leader who generates concrete results for the organization.

CIO Malfunction #5: Logic Error

In Geek Speak, a logic error in software code produces unintended output, although it may not immediately be recognized as such. The fundamental logic error for CIOs is focusing too much on technology, or even worse, continuing to do technical work.

Yes, it’s important for CIOs to be conversant, even expert on technology, but the far more important responsibility is leadership. Logic errors result in a means-ends inversion—CIOs who suffer from then view technology as an end rather than the means to an end. CIOs who immerse themselves in technology are missing the point, and inadvertently diminishing the potential impact of IT on the organization.

Quality Assurance (What You Can Do About It)

The best way to overcome a logic error malfunction? Learn to lead. This may seem like a trivial solution, but the fact is that far too few CIOs have had any kind of leadership training or education. If your organization has an executive development program, take advantage of it. If they offer coaching, do it. If not, put together your own program: read, attend seminars, and take classes. The key is to earn the right to sit at the decision-making table by delivering results that help increase revenues, expand market share, and achieve strategic objectives.

CIO Malfunction #6: Kernel Crash

In Geek Speak, a kernel crash is an action taken by an operating system on a fatal error from which it cannot recover. What this means for CIOs is low stress resilience.

We all need a certain amount of stress to function. However, in today’s go-go world, leaders in particular are subjected to continuous, high levels of stress, and CIOs are not exempt. Those CIOs who are unable to deal with stress productively can suffer from lower levels of performance as well as loss of health, job, and family.

Quality Assurance (What You Can Do About It)

In order to avoid these negative consequences CIOs must become stress resilient. This means adopting practices that build your reserves and counteract the effects of stress, such as: good nutrition, exercise, getting plenty of sleep, taking short breaks and vacations, monitoring yourself for signs of stress, and having a support system. This includes taking time for your family and friends, even if you have to schedule it. Implementing these practices will help CIOs avoid catastrophic leader failure associated with the stress that comes with the role.

CIO Malfunction #7: Bad Command

In geek speak a bad command is inputting incorrect direction to the computer. For CIOs, bad command means poor leadership, and that’s not a good thing when leadership is the name of the game.

Nothing is more disastrous for you or your team than bad command. Bad command when it’s all about “you” rather than “us,” if it’s “my way or the highway,” or if you walk on the backs of your people and your peers to get ahead. Such behavior has the disastrous effect of destroying trust and demoralizing the team. It results in low employee engagement and substandard results. In short, nothing excellent comes from bad command.

Quality Assurance (What You Can Do About It)

On the other hand, “good command” is all about integrity, humility, and trust. It requires you to increase your self-awareness by knowing who you are, why you lead, and what you stand for. It means doing the right thing even when the right thing is hard to do, owning up to your mistakes, and treating everyone with respect and dignity. In this way, your leadership will be founded on the rock of authenticity, upon which the potential for high performance is built.


Although it won’t be easy, the good news is that you can remedy all seven malfunctions with determined effort. The key is to put in that effort over a sustained period of time. If you are willing, then you can multiply your chances of leadership growth and professional success by surrounding yourself with a support system of mentors, advisors, and coaches who have your best interests in mind.

To be sure, it’s about being the best leader you can be, but it’s also about contributing the best you have to offer to your team and your company. When viewed in this way, your success as an executive leader becomes a positive force that benefits all concerned.

If that’s the kind of CIO you aspire to be, it’s time to reset your fun meter, seize the reins of your executive destiny, and move out on your leadership journey.

See Joe's related earlier article: "4 Malfunctions of a CIO"

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