CIO Leadership, IT Performance

Unlock your management potential to become a charismatic IT leader

In the future, we won’t need managers--we will need CIO leaders (with some management skills)

Blog-post by,

I cannot stress to IT managers how critical it is that they develop your leadership capabilities. To put it bluntly: Businesses simply don’t need you very much anymore. A couple of workplace trends point to the impending extinction of managers: the move toward outcome-based management, and younger generation of workers who don’t respond to being managed. It won’t suffice to maintain and manage the status quo, when the future is about becoming innovative. We need people who are continually leading innovation (and therefore change). In the future, we will need charismatic leaders instead of managers.

I believe if you have leadership potential, you can take it one step further and become a charismatic leader: that is, someone like Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, etc., who truly connects with and galvanizes large numbers of people. Many people believe that charismatic leaders are born that way. That’s a myth. If you have leadership potential, you can become a charismatic leader. There are eight qualities I’ve identified in charismatic leaders. Develop these in yourself and you can maximize your leadership potetial


1. Be high performing

Charismatic leaders are peak performers. Somehow, these leaders know how to keep their energy level up so they can stay on top of what their people do, what their peers do and what’s going on in their industry. As I mentioned in my earlier post (5 ways to motivate people for higher performance) people in the new workforce have great needs for belonging and recognition. So you really have to be aware of what they’re doing and focus on rewarding them, even if it’s just sending an email saying “Well done, mate.” At the same time, you need to be constantly reading and learning so that you can be innovative yourself (in my case, in addition to reading scores of publications, I’m on the TED Talks web site several hours a week). Figure out what gives you energy and cultivate it – you’ll need it.

2. Show interest

In my experience, charismatic leaders have a sincere interest in other people and their needs. You can build this capability in yourself by keeping an open-door policy and inviting your people to walk in. Every person you are leading will perform better by being recognized. So show interest in your people: Find out what their needs are and ask them their ideas on how to improve the organization.

3. Be specific

When you are specific and clear in what you want, you lessen anxiety and bad feelings among your people. Be honest, simple and complete in your communications and interactions. You’ll save your people from spending time and energy guessing at what you’re up to. Instead, they can concentrate on being productive. This capability also ties in to the trend toward outcome-based management, which I wrote about earlier. Everyone benefits when you take the time to outline specific activities and the results you want.

4. Interact

For charismatic leaders, interaction is a two-way street. One of the most important traits you can develop is balancing listening with talking. I always say to my audience: “We have two ears and one mouth.”

One leader I worked with always told his staff: “I promise I will always tell you what I know, not withholding anything. And I will never lie. However I can’t promise that tomorrow is the same as yesterday and today.” I have followed his example ever since and it pays off every time.

5. Build relationships

It is not enough simply to interact with people. Charismatic leaders actively build relationships. To develop this capability in yourself, it’s important to cultivate what author Stephen Covey calls the “win-win attitude.” The three character traits of someone who approaches life with this attitude are integrity, maturity and abundance. As Stephen puts it so beautifully: “Many people think in terms of either/or: either you're nice or you're tough. Win-win requires that you be both. It is a balancing act between courage and consideration.”

6. Observe

My credo is “observe but don’t judge.” People always do things for a reason. If you judge someone too quickly for what they’ve done you miss the chance to understand the “why.” Unless you understand the underlying reason for someone’s choices and behavior, you won’t be able to address the real issue and change the outcome.

7. Motivate

I motivate my staff based on my own principles of life. I believe work is part of life, and it’s important to place work in context. To that end I ask the people on my team to think about their future, to look at their careers and think about the next step. I try to reward them whether it be with an email, a dinner out or a salary increase. The other important point to remember is that people perform better when they feel they are made to feel part of a team – even if it’s virtual

8. Take responsibility

You can’t make someone responsible if you’re not responsible yourself. Even in small matters you can take responsibility and show respect. For instance, I make sure to be always on time. This shows others that you respect their time and demonstrates that you do what you’ve promised to do. By being disciplined yourself you model a behavior for others. I have a policy of responding to my staff’s emails within two to four hours. In other words, I show them they have the highest priority. That behavior has spread through my team and I see them responding to emails in the same time frame.

If you pay attention to these capabilities, you’ll notice a difference in how people respond to you. Charisma is NOT something “mystical” or “magical.” Most of us are born with some of these competencies; we simply need to enable them by developing ourselves. If you want to be a leader, it’s certainly worth doing so, because it sure helps when you are charismatic. And don’t think that being charismatic is only for the “big” leaders such as Churchill, Kennedy, Clinton, Gandhi, Mandela, Thatcher and many others. You can be a charismatic mentor, a charismatic change agent or a charismatic colleague for that matter.

While leaders will supplant managers in the coming years—and managers must quickly gain leadership skills—management skills will remain in vogue. Leaders will always need to possess some traditional management skills, as there will always be something to manage in the workplace—even in the “manager-less” business of the near future.


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Joel Dobbs 339 Points | Thu, 11/29/2012 - 22:33

Nice article Joshua.

John Maxwell says, "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care."  The first step to being the successful leader of an organization is genuinely caring about the people you are charged with leading. People are naturally drawn to people who they believe care about them and understand them.  

Paul Calento 255 Points | Thu, 11/29/2012 - 15:30

Reminded of a Joel H. Dobbs post entitled "Leadership Lessons from Gen. George C. Marshall". Dobbs identifies three key attributes: Integrity. Selflessness. Vision. Thoughtful behavior = impactful results.

--Paul Calento

(note: I work on projects sponsored by and HP)

Pearl Zhu 90 Points | Wed, 11/28/2012 - 17:22

Hi, Joshua, comprehensive blog, be charismatic may also mean being authentic, being effective as well as being empathic, as we are moving from an order taken industrial economy into an engaging business dynamic with digital speed, leadership & management may also need mutual enforce with each other, my pleasure to share some collective insight based on a proactive leadership debate:

The revised Maslow's pyramid of people need may well reflect such trend, how to engage staff to express different opinion, how to cultivate the cultujre of innovation, and how to unite employees mind, heart and hands in the work are more crucial than ever. thanks.