Here are the critical leadership soft skills that CIOs need to develop in themselves.

Last month, after compiling CIO viewpoints on the soft skills they must develop in themselves,
we became interested to hear what the leadership coaches and management consultants in our network had to say on this topic.

Question:  What is an important soft skill that CIOs should be developing in themselves over the next 12 months? 

"The ability to influence others to successfully lead change. Digital transformation requires change in how the business thinks about and partners with IT and how IT thinks about and interacts with the business. The best CIOs will develop the ability to lead and influence that change even when they have no direct reporting authority with those involved."

Randy Pennington
President, the Pennington Group and author of Make Change Work

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"Developing and mentoring people is one of the most important soft skill for a CIO to develop. Companies want leaders who can attract, nurture, promote and retain top talent for their organization to have a strong bench of talent that enable the company to grow and maximize profitability. If a CIO cannot attract, train, or keep their talented staff in place, the company experiences unnecessary expenses and opportunity loss stemming from that CIOs inability."

Lisa Rangel
Managing Director, Chameleon Resumes

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"The increasing pace of disruption in our business environment brings change leadership to the top of my list. A primary reason for the failure of many IT projects – and corporate strategies – is a direct result of our inability to help others to change.  This isn’t just a matter of explaining the logic precipitating the change and then declaring that the change should begin.  This must involve trust, relationship-building, active listening, empathy, vulnerability, and a willingness to change ourselves. Our corporate ability to successfully accept and drive change will determine the extent of future success."

Terry Bennett
Partner, Fortium Partners LP

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"One item that CIOs should be concerned about is remote worker engagement. On-site worker engagement is easier because there are many face-to-face interaction opportunities. It can almost happen organically if a leader cares about their workers and purposefully interacts with them. But, for the remote members of the workforce, the CIO and IT leadership team have to reach out and invest time getting to know them because it is one of their responsibilities. Otherwise, the remote workers feel isolated and forgotten. This leads to increased attrition amongst that segment of the workforce because the number one reason people leave is the nagging feeling that "I am not appreciated around here."

Frank Wander
CEO and Founder, People Productive and author of Transforming IT Culture


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"It's creative thinking, the ability to come up with new solutions for increasingly demanding customers and complex situations."

Jackie Barretta
Managing Partner, Nura Group and author of Primal Teams  


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"That's easy. Influence: It requires building credibility, relevance and trust."

Abbie Lundberg
President, Lundberg Media

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"Storytelling. There is a lot of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity forming in all industries, markets, and companies. A simple description of ROI, or technological capabilities, opportunities or threats does not carry the weight of a well told story - "imagine if you will". History's great leaders were great at telling stories to get their ideas across. It is increasingly important for CIOs to lead since many of the new business, organization, operating and management models of the future will be enabled, facilitated and accelerated by technology. It is therefore increasingly important for CIOs to be able to tell the associated stories - not so much around the technology but the outcomes it can help create."

Jim Stikeleather
Chief Innovation Officer, Dell

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"Emotional Intelligence (EQ), that "set of innate skills that allow you to address the emotional, personal, social, and survival dimensions of intelligence, which are often more important to successful coping with environmental demands and pressures than the more traditional cognitive aspects of intelligence.” (Stein & Book, 2011). EQ is especially important for CIOs, given their reputation for being technology-centric and unfocused on the people side of their work."

Joe Scherrer
President, The Leadership Crucible and author of The Leadership Forge

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"Active listening. Since the role of the IT leader is to solve problems, we’re often identifying issues and can begin to develop solutions before a person even finishes what they’re saying. This means you hear someone, but you’re not actively listening to what they’re saying.  A fun thing to try the next time you’re in a meeting or having a conversation is put a watch down in front of you, and the instant you start thinking of a response when someone is speaking glance at your watch to see how long it took for that to happen. I’m guessing that is doesn’t take long and that you’ll see that it happens often. The key is to actively listen, which takes more time but produces better results. It means you listen without interruption and then take the time to think and form a response before replying. It takes practice, but it pays off."

Shawn Johnson, consultant


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"I think the most important soft skill IT leaders need to develop in themselves and others is Self-Efficacy.  IT is expected to solve new and challenging problems faster than ever.  The ability to believe in one’s ability to successfully take on unprecedented challenges is going to be the key to success.  But it must be more than just having Self-Efficacy, the must instill it in others."

Doug Moran
President, If You Will Lead, LLC and author If You Will Lead

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