At the Best of Breed Conference on October 25-26th, I had the privilege of listening to Larry Bonfante, CIO of USTA discuss how the position of IT has shifted from utility provider to the role of “trusted advisor/business enabler.” He mentions how to utilize technology to drive brand, revenue, and engage consumers. This topic points to the fact that CIOs must be business leaders and just not technologists. So, how can you make a difference? He answers, “By understanding your

client’s business and helping them succeed.”

Be a leader with unique characteristics- All good leaders, Bonfante says are authentic, humble, action oriented, open to honest feedback, empower people, care about people, give credit for success, and take responsibility for failure and possess integrity. “Yes, actions speak louder than words” he says.

Larry admonishes us to “Be a Partner – Create win/win scenarios with vendors, share accountability, and partner with your team.” The “Partner” term is thrown around way too loosely he says.

CIO’s need to be the change agents. They also must involve people in the process, sell the need for change, ensure buy in, and develop culture of innovation. It’s a good idea to plan in bite size actionable chunks, track progress, celebrate and communicate progress.

Continue coaching – developing leaders is your top priority. The talents and passions of your people are your only real completive advantage. Leverage their unique strengths and recognize their successes. The CIO will be their relationship manager. Focus on helping others succeed, and team building. When you’re a leader it is never about you. Build credibility, say what you mean and mean what you say. Focus on your client’s success and not just your short term personal benefit. Bonfante stresses the importance of listening: tailor the message to your audience, communicate tough issues, and teach your team to understand and speak the language of business. The purpose of IT is to drive business value. The CIO needs to be an evangelist – inspire the team through a compelling vision, and help the team feel a sense of ownership and comprehension when it comes to the company’s vision.