Are You Smarter Than A CIO?

Are You Smarter Than A CIO?


I was having a particularly tough week when I had to give a presentation to my Center explaining exactly what a CIO does.  I managed to pull together a rather tongue-in-cheek power point presentation that was actually very therapeutic for me. I supplemented the presentation by inviting the group to take the “Are You Smarter Than A CIO Survey.” I will report some of the discoveries below.  But, it got me thinking, how does a CIO ever get herself smart enough about the mission she serves?


In an article about Future CIO Competencies in, three types of CIOs are described – the Function Head, the Transformational Leader, and the Business Strategist.  Pretty much, the role of the CIO as a Function Head is clearly understood … “Why don’t I see my meetings on my blackberry?” “Why do I have to have so many passwords?” “Where’s my email?” The goal of the Function Head is to be forgotten, like the Maytag Repairman. 


However, the Transformational Leader strives to partner with the mission and the Business Strategist seeks to focus on innovation and understand organizational differentiators.  Now here’s the paradox: as soon as you’ve transformed, things become status quo; as soon as you’ve innovated, things become old hat.  So as soon as a CIO reaches her “status” in those areas, she ceases to be successful in that space. 


So, that means I’m either forgotten or a failure.  Yeah, that really was a tough week.


This starts to touch on a notion suggested by one of the most powerful qualities of leadership – humility.  It’s not a skill you proudly develop; it’s something that you approach asymptotically – you can’t really get there because if you think you’re there, that proves you’re not there. 


“Pride is concerned with who is right. Humility is concerned with what is right.”

    Ezra Taft Benson


This means that questions like “Who are you?”  and “What does a CIO do?” become less relevant than “What do we need to do in order to become a more competitive and innovative organization?”


So, here are some survey results:


What does CIO stand for?


    1.6% said Can’t Implement the Outsourcing Desktop Initiative for NASA

    11.5% said Career is Over

    86.9% said Chief Information Officer


What is the #1 Goal of the CIO?


    6.4% said it was to assimilate all technology

    6.4% said it was to insert fear, uncertainty, and doubt into our mission and business processes

    2.1% said it was to destroy all life, as we know it

    85.1% said it was advise the Goddard Space Flight Center Director on all IT matters


A CIO’s favorite people to talk to are:


    8.7% said ancient Romans

    60.9% said Center network engineers

    30.4% said people who are not listening.


And finally, being the CIO of the Goddard Space Flight Center is better then:


    2.5% said being a French horn player with no gig

    5.0% said being a trumpet player with no chops

    5.0% said being a left-handed cartographer using pen and ink

    12.% said cleaning out test tubes in an infectious diseases lab

    60.0% said nothing is better


The survey results clearly show that my stakeholders are “smarter than a CIO”.  How humbling. So, I guess nothing is better than being the CIO of the Goddard Space Flight Center. 


Linda Cureton


7 thoughts on “Are You Smarter Than A CIO?”

  1. The CIO position is changing in response to a turbulent, hypercompetitive business market, in which organizations increasingly turn to technology and business process innovation to gain competitive advantage
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