Gartner on how to become a ‘Machiavellian CIO’

  • Gartner Fellow says CIOs should consider using ‘dark-side Machiavellian tactics’ to defend themselves
  • All in new e-book ‘The Wolf in CIO's Clothing: A Machiavellian Strategy for Successful IT Leadership’

Gartner on how to become a ‘Machiavellian CIO’CIOs (chief information officers) are often under attack due to IT system failures or other circumstances that are beyond their control, and if the CIO cannot prevent and fight off attacks successfully, they can face serious repercussions, according to Gartner Inc.
Based on the Gartner 2013 CIO Survey conducted between September and December last year on some 2,000 enterprises, CIOs are starting to assume responsibility for hunting for digital opportunities and harvesting value.
Sixty-seven percent of CIOs surveyed have significant leadership responsibilities outside of IT, with only 33% having no other such responsibilities, Gartner said in a statement.
In the e-book The Wolf in CIO’s Clothing: A Machiavellian Strategy for Successful IT Leadership launched recently, Tina Nunno, vice president and Gartner Fellow, reveals how CIOs and IT leaders can adapt their leadership styles in extreme situations for their own success and that of their teams.
She discussed some of the key findings from the book at the recent Gartner Symposium/ITxpo. The book is based on her research with CIOs and their mutual admiration for Niccolo Machiavelli, a 15th-century Italian political philosopher.
“Business is a hotbed for conflict, and CIOs often find themselves at the centre,” said Nunno.
“As Machiavelli implied, you’re either predator or prey, and the animal you most resemble determines your position on the food chain,” she added.
When a CIO is in a ‘dark-side’ enterprise or in a situation where a colleague is using dark-side tactics, then normal management techniques will not work. In these situations, Nunno suggests CIOs consider using dark-side Machiavellian tactics to defend themselves and then succeed.
“The career of a CIO has many analogies to the life of Machiavelli. CIOs are often in favour with senior leadership, and at other times they are not. While falling out of favour is, at times, deserved due to failure to deliver IT solutions, at other times CIOs are falsely accused of failure or targeted for other reasons.
“The wolf – a social animal with strong predatory instincts – is an ideal example of how a CIO, or any leader, can adapt and thrive,” she added.
Nunno took Machiavelli's lessons and boiled them down into three disciplines she believes matter most to CIOs.
“CIOs have to master power, manipulation and warfare. They should get comfortable using power and growing it, manipulating and sometimes dealing with issues of honesty or stealth or lack thereof and running disciplined warfare like campaigns that use every weapon in their arsenal to get large groups of people on board,” she said.
Gartner on how to become a ‘Machiavellian CIO’Machiavellian CIO novices often focus exclusively on Machiavelli's much-publicised power tactics to gain and maintain their positions.
“CIOs must become comfortable with the idea of power, gathering it, and using it wisely as it is an essential leadership tool,” said Nunno (pic).
Power is often the most expedient way to get things done, but Machiavelli acknowledged its limitations, she noted.
“The use of power often results in significant collateral damage or is often of little use in the face of a more powerful opponent, or in the case of an irrational or deceitful opponent,” Nunno said.
“In such cases, the leader must resort to craft, subterfuge and more subtle tactics to achieve success, ideally without alerting the opponent of the countermeasures. CIOs are regularly confronted with opponents more powerful than they, or those who they would consider less than completely honest or rational. As a result, CIOs must also master the discipline of manipulation,” she added.
When CIOs follow traditional IT management advice and best practices, they often become more vulnerable to the manipulation of others, rather than less vulnerable. At a minimum, Gartner says that effective CIOs must anticipate manipulative behaviour, and take appropriate steps to evade or defend against it.
Ideally, leading CIOs should consider manipulation techniques to help advance the IT agenda and increase their contribution to the enterprise, Gartner said.
Once CIOs have mastered these two Machiavellian-inspired disciplines, then they can master warfare, the analyst firm added.
Warfare is the ability to take power and manipulation and scale them up to mass proportions. Many CIO initiatives resemble warfare, including centralisation initiatives, business process changes, cost reduction programmes, and mergers and acquisitions.
The CIO's ability to succeed is directly related to the ability to get large groups of people to go in the same direction at the same time in conflict-ridden situations.
“I tend to think it is always a good time for Machiavelli, but now is a particularly good time considering the tremendous pressure on CIOs, with opportunities and threats coming from so many different parts of the organisation,” said Nunno.
“Machiavellians know there is no safe middle ground in leadership. By going to extremes, a wolf CIO can help bring a dark enterprise to the light side,” she added.
To download the book The Wolf in CIO’s Clothing: A Machiavellian Strategy for Successful IT Leadership, click here.
Related Stories:
CIOs: We’re being held back by other C-levels
Megatrends fast changing the role of CIOs: Forrester
CIOs who don't evolve in the cloud era will be replaced
Embrace changing trends or perish, says Gartner
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