If you’re like most CIOs, chances are you spent some time as an IT manager or in a related position prior to assuming your current role. And while there are certainly some similarities between the two roles, to be an effective leader, it’s crucial that CIOs add some new skills to their arsenal.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at seven essential traits that separate an IT leader from an IT manager.


A good IT leader must inspire colleagues and staff alike and position new technologies as exciting opportunities to bring positive change. The key to this skill is acquiring and nurturing strong emotional intelligence and communication capabilities. Part of what makes these skills so important is that IT leaders should also expect to frequently engage in open, honest, and transparent conversations about technology strategies and vision.


As we’ve discussed previously at the APEX of Innovation, IT must be viewed as a strategic business partner to accelerate digital transformation efforts. As such, it should come as no surprise that establishing collaborative relationships across other areas of the organization is an increasingly important skill for IT leaders to cultivate.


Taking critical information and turning it into a persuasive narrative to help team members become their most successful selves is another skill that helps IT leaders stand apart from managers. And because CIOs interface with employees and stakeholders at all levels, it’s equally critical that they adapt their communication styles to suit their audience. 


IT managers often have a “keep the lights on” viewpoint. IT leaders, by contrast, must have a broader perspective that encompasses new strategies, approaches, and avenues for bringing value to internal and external customers. 


Empathy is another soft skill that is becoming increasingly critical for effective IT leadership. Taking the time to listen to employees and demonstrating that you understand their motivations and context inspires them to do their best work. In addition, this mentality is contagious and encourages others in the C-suite to be more empathetic leaders.


The IT environment is complex and rapidly changing. As such, it follows that IT leaders must be flexible and display the ability to reason and problem-solve their way through a variety of situations.


Caring about employees as well as the enterprise’s mission is another distinguishing characteristic of effective CIOs. This compassionate attitude encourages career growth and employee well-being while also laying the framework for the continuous learning that is essential for the entire team’s success.

For more on these defining traits of IT leadership, head over to InformationWeek to check out the article in its entirety.