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Gartner: The character traits CIOs will need to have in 2021

By Shannon Williams, Thu 7 Jan 2021

Determination and sensitivity will be critical personal character traits hiring managers will be looking for when recruiting CIOs, according to Gartner. 

The analyst firm says pandemic-induced changes will reinforce a need for stronger leadership and emotional dexterity in the chief information officer role.

Gartner research states 70% of hiring processes of new CIOs rank individual determination and sensitivity as two critical personal characteristics in 2021. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to shift the landscape for how global CIOs manage, collaborate and respond to their stakeholders, so too does the demand for strong leadership and core emotional dexterity competencies.

“CEOs are looking for executives who are capable of weathering crises,” says Daniel Sanchez-Reina, senior research director at Gartner. 

“They are still unsettled about the future and want determined CIOs who make and implement timely decisions, while displaying emotional dexterity to be tactful and supportive," he explains.

Determination refers to a firmness of resoluteness and in turning decisions into actions, despite how tough they are. Sensitivity is the quality of feeling empathetic toward others’ difficulties and acting accordingly.

According to Gartner TalentNeuron data, demand for the determination competency among new hires increased 34% in 2020 versus 2019, and sensitivity increased 92% in 2020 versus 2019. Both competencies are in the top 10 of increasing demand in recruitment processes, which will extend to existing employees too.

High Performing CIOs are Committed to Self-Development

A Gartner survey showed that CIOs who look to develop emotional dexterity in the digital era can improve their self-awareness, self-management and relationships during times of crisis by committing to practicing self-improvement techniques.

Gartner research shows that the vast majority of IT and business leaders say that the most important skills needed in 10 years will be soft skills. The survey results showed that above average CIOs are 30% more likely to practice gratitude as a self-development approach, putting them in a better position to deal with the fear and doubt that complex change brings.

“Interestingly, all surveyed CIOs spend an average of 30 minutes daily in learning and development, indicating it is not the quantity, but the quality of time spent on focusing on the right behaviours that is important,” says Rob O'Donohue, senior research director at Gartner.

Transparency ranked as the most commonly admired emotional dexterity leadership competency, followed by authentic communications and collaboration. Above-average-performing CIOs are more likely to develop others through coaching and mentoring than low-performing CIOs (69% vs. 48%). In a 1:1 setting with their direct reports, high performing CIOs stated that up to 74% of their time is spent listening, rather than directing.

“Being aware of the positive impact these behaviours and practices bring is paramount as organisations consider their vaccine strategy and employees return to work,” says O’Donohue. 

“They’ll be as important, if not more, than the technical skills a typical CIO embodies.”

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