Key Attributes of a CIO Part 5 - Lessons Learned at Central Ohio IT

February 15, 2019 5 min Read

With a great deal of help, I put together an IT leadership development program - Central Ohio IT - in 2017 for aspiring CIOs in Central Ohio.  The following message is my effort to share what I have learned from the tremendous CIO guest speakers that have presented as part of the program.

Central Ohio IT is a peer group that meets monthly to network, discuss ideas, learn from experienced speakers, and establish collaborative relationships with the goal of nurturing the next generation of Columbus IT leadership. Several times throughout the year, the peer group will host CIO guest speakers to discuss various aspects of IT leadership. The following lesson learned is based off of my interpretation of a recent presentation by Angelo Mazzocco, CIO of Central Ohio Primary Care (COPC).

I believe that there are five key attributes of the CIO role. Angelo Mazzocco described the four attributes that he fulfills in his presentation to the IT Leaders program.  The fifth one he implies during his presentation is Culture – and I think that he creates and drives culture in his workplace so well that it is second nature to him, so it is not part of his presentation.

We have all heard the phrase that ‘Culture eats Strategy for breakfast’, and we know that it is true.  But what is professional culture?  What makes up a great culture in an IT department?  Culture is difficult to define, and this is what we came up with.

The inaugural IT Leaders group had a discussion session a couple months after Angelo’s outstanding presentation.  A survey of our group revealed that this was the top input that they had received during the first six months of the program. Below are my notes taken from the discussion session.

Culture is driven from the top in a corporate environment and it is also driven by the local leader in a ‘branch location’.  It is often difficult to tell what makes up a good culture, but it is easily identified when you are in a bad one.

Here are the building blocks of culture that our group came up with, in no particular order:

Accountability – each person will do what they say they will do. Positive consequences for following through; negative consequences for failing to do so.

Empowerment – each person feels that they can make a positive difference in the organization.  Considering each of the people in this group were sponsored by their superior to gain and enhance their leadership skills, this makes sense that they thought empowerment was key.

Communication – consistent and constant communication drives staff engagement, drives the organization’s narrative and mitigates conflict. The team that does the formal leadership training for IT Leaders – Innovative Leadership Institute – discusses several ways to communicate better during class.

Honesty/Trust – perhaps the key foundation of life and work.

Work Ethic – the belief that your will to do a good job is key to your success and the organization’s success.

Attitude – being helpful and positive helps all boats rise.  A key aspect of my organization is that you only state complaints to your superiors, not peers or staff, and you do so with a possible solution to resolve your complaint.

Decisiveness – decisions that are made in a timely basis and are also well thought out helps drive confidence throughout the organization.

Organization – everyone knows what is expected of them, and inevitable changes are communicated fairly and effectively.

Mentorship – having someone who can provide honest and respected feedback.  This person does not have to be a part of your organization, but that is preferred.

Vision – the ability to communicate the goals and direction of the organization in order to inspire confidence and trust. In my career, I have worked in places with outstanding culture, as well as companies with horrible culture, and I have learned a great deal from both. I believe that no amount of money is worth putting up with a bad culture.

I would argue that what makes up a great culture in an IT division or organization does not differ from that of an entire organization, as culture spans across all aspects of professional interaction.  I would also argue that the culture in an IT department can vary greatly from the balance of the organization, based on the level of involvement of the business side of an organization with the IT department.  For more on this topic, please refer to my opinion in the fourth installment of this series.

Do you agree or disagree with this content?  Please feel free to provide feedback at my email or LinkedIn feed.

In next week’s post, I will share another key attribute of the CIO role that was discussed at Central Ohio IT

If you’re interested in discussing the IT Leaders program, digital transformation, cloud technology or how to get involved with Central Ohio’s IT community, please reach out to me at

Steve Gruetter Steve Gruetter

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