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Advice for Aspiring CEOs

Advice for Aspiring CEOs

It's never too early to start preparing to become the top executive. Here's how.

Remember back in university, when you blew off your study group in favour of an all-night kegger? Or when you decided you could live with a 3.2 GPA if it meant meeting more co-eds? Most likely, you've experienced some remorse over strolling through those four expensive years and not making the most of every learning opportunity. How would your life be different if you actually took advantage of all that your university had to offer?

The good news is you have another chance at greatness. Your CIO role, if managed correctly, can be the perfect place to prepare for becoming a CEO. And it's no wonder. With their unique role in the enterprise, CIOs are well positioned to develop the attributes of a great CEO. As Michael Capellas, former CIO and CEO of Compaq, former CEO of MCI and currently, CEO of First Data, puts it, "CIOs have to be experts at solving complex problems. They have to be precise and experienced planners, they have to spring into operational mode, and they have to be more global than their peers."

With their unique role in the enterprise, CIOs are well positioned to develop the attributes of a great CEO

Those CIOs who take advantage of the opportunity to build on these foundational skills -- rather than strolling along in their current role -- may well find themselves in the top corporate spot. So what can CIOs do now to prepare themselves for the corner office? I asked four CIOs-turned-CEOs to share their perspective on what it takes to become a CEO.

Learn to balance internal and external demands. "The CEO has a much larger group of external constituencies including the board, investors, partners and customers, and has to know when to prioritize the internal versus the external," says Capellas. "When I became CEO of Compaq, my first priority was to be the voice of the customer and to go on 100 customer visits and see them all. I thought that it was absolutely the right thing to do until I realized I was on the verge of being an absentee leader."

CIOs have a tendency to prioritize their internal demands over their external constituents. If that is the case, you will have to work on striking a balance.

Change up your management style. As CIO, you manage people with different skill sets -- application developers, operations people, project leaders -- but most of them have a direct relationship to IT. "As CEO, you have a far more diverse group of people to manage -- HR, finance, product development, sales -- and you have to learn to relate to them in different ways," says Capellas. CIOs who find that one management style fits all will have to work some variety into their routine in order to meet the CEO's management challenge.

Join the CIO New Zealand group on LinkedIn. The group is open to CIOs, IT Directors, COOs, CTOs and senior IT managers.

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