The CIO 100 is compiled each year to reveal the most transformative CIOs in or from the UK. CIOs that are driving business change, process improvement, enabling greater collaboration and innovating in new market opportunities join this exclusive group each year.

University College London Hospitals director of IT James Thomas (pictured) heads the 2013 CIO 100.

The CIO 100 judging panel agreed Thomas showed what the CIO can do for an organisation in terms of sourcing strategy and management, process improvement and being a board level leader that enables an organisation to think openly and differently, with technology playing a key role.

"At a time when the public healthcare system in the UK is struggling, James Thomas and UCLH demonstrate the importance of technology to improve the efficiency of an organisation so that it can do more for its most important community, it's users," said Mark Chillingworth, Editor in Chief of CIO UK.

As CIOs complete their entries, CIO UK asked the specialist recruiters for CIOs what they believe the key strengths CIOs should have to be industry leaders and therefore at the top of the CIO 100?

Kevin Sealy is CIO Practice Head and Partner at Korn/Ferry Whitehead Mann, formerly a partner and consultant with PWC and IBM, Sealy has been recruiting CIOs for eight years.

Sealy identified seven key strengths he believes CIOs must exhibit:

1.    Embrace rapid change – don’t try to fight it – be prepared to handle ambiguity and to think about totally new ways of doing business.  Do not think in terms of marginal improvement, be prepared to look for dramatic business model changes (because new entrant competitors certainly will!) and look at things from your customer’s point of view.

2.    Get a deep understanding of the business.  Understand not just the core processes but what your differentiators are as a company and where the revenues and profits really come from.  Again customer perspective is key.

3.    Have the courage to challenge the business, not just react to it.  IT strategy is no longer a support to a business strategy – it is often a key part of driving new revenue streams – hence CIOs must be prepared to step-up and not be mere order-takers.  If CIOs do this then they will be invited to the top table as a peer – that is where they must be to succeed, but you have to earn your place.

4.    Be technically curious – be open to innovation (product and service), look at how other industries are using technology – and take ideas to the business.

5.    CIOs must be global – understanding how to do business in different regions and being politically and organisationally astute is key to getting things done.

6.    Build a strong team – “A team” players recruit A players, B players recruit C players – you need the A team if you are going to drive a big transformation – and ensure you focus on having a great delivery engine.

7.    Have great self-awareness – know where your strengths and weaknesses are, and know where your derailment risks are as an individual and a leader.

Our leadership team wrote an article recently about the seven signposts to high potential leaders.  This report does show that there is a lot around the core leadership skills and what we call ‘learning agility’ – which is really point one above and shows not everyone has the same inherent ability to be able to embrace change.