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. As such new research from Gartner indicates that 70 percent of hiring processes for new CIOs rank individual determination and sensitivity as two critical personal characteristics in 2021.

“CEOs are looking for executives who are capable of weathering crises,” said 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.”

In Gartner’s study, determination refers to a firmness of resoluteness and in turning decisions into actions, despite how tough they are. Sensitivity meanwhile 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 percent in 2020 versus 2019, and sensitivity increased 92 percent in 2020 versus 2019. Both competencies are in the top 10 of increasing demand in recruitment processes, which will extend to existing employees too.

The findings of the research resonated with executive recruiters.

Bridget Gray, VP APAC, IT Services, Korn Ferry, said “Much of our discussions with key stakeholders in regard to the 2021 and beyond suitability of their IT Leader have been by far the specific assessment of the leader’s personal characteristics.”

Bridget Gray, VP APAC IT Services, Korn Ferry

Being a CIO is by no means an easy task, says Gray, “They are required to harness and support their existing workforce, rethink, plan and shape their future capability and operating model, all whilst personally adapting and developing their own thinking and approach to leadership. Micro-learning through research, peer collaboration, podcasts, blogs and other resources has been desirable for a long time but it is now in many cases could be the difference between relevance, deliberate self-transition or replacement.”

She told Which-50.”Given the ambiguity we are all operating our businesses within; whether it is increased demand or finding new creative ways to diversify and drive revenue, the CIO of today is without doubt operating within business conditions that are somewhat rollercoaster-like, and not in necessarily a fun way. For the CIO to remain effective, respected, and effective, they must show resilience and demonstrate unwavering determination and commitment.”

High Performing CIOs are Committed to Self-Development

A Gartner panel 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 behaviors that is important,” said 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 per cent vs. 48 per cent). 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 behaviors and practices bring is paramount as organizations consider their vaccine strategy and employees return to work,” said Mr. O’Donohue. “They’ll be as important, if not more, than the technical skills a typical CIO embodies.”

(Note: Gartner clients can read more in “Predicts 2021: CIOs Must Adjust Talent and Leadership Direction for Digital Acceleration” and “Survey Analysis: 2020 Gartner CIO Emotional Intelligence Competencies Survey Findings.” )

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