It was nice to see a book today that brought this topic home; it is called “G-d is My CEO” by Larry Julian.
The premise of the book is that “we usually want to do the right thing, but often succumb to the short-term, bottom line demands of daily business life.”
Julian states: “The bottom line had become their G-d. It was insatiable. No matter how hard they worked, it was never enough, nor would it ever be enough.”
As I see it, people have two faces (or more) and one is their weekend persona that is family and G-dly oriented and the other is the one for the rest of the week—for business—that is driven by materialism, accomplishment, and desire for personal success.
This is where the test of true leadership comes into play.
We can and must do better in our business lives by “doing the right thing regardless of the outcome” and “expanding the definition of success from making money to making a difference.”
BUT, BUT, BUT…
We’re all experts at making excuses, why we need to be successful in business, achieve results, make lots of money, get the next promotion (and the next and the next) and that “the end justifies the means; you get to the outcome regardless of how you accomplish it”!
In Information Technology, it’s no different than in any other business function. It’s a competitive environment and most of the time, people’s raw ambitions are somewhat obscured (but still operating there) and occasionally you see the worst come out in people—not working together (like system operating in stovepipes), or worse criticizing, bad-mouthing, and even back stabbing.
As a CIO or CTO, we must rise above this and lead by a different set of principles. To this end, I like the “Servant Leadership” doctrine put forward by Julian.
In short, the servant leader, leads by example and puts people first and in essence, spiritually elevates the baser ambitions of people.
The servant leader is “one who serves others, not one who uses others. He/she “serves employees so they can serve others.”
“When we [as leaders] serve others, we help them succeed” and thereby we can accomplish the mission even better than pure individual greed ever could.
The CIO/CTO can lead people, modernize and transform the enterprise with innovation and technology, to accomplish the mission better than ever and we can do it by integrating spirituality and kindness to people into what we do every day in our working lives.
Unfortunately, IT organizations are often run not by elevating people and making them significant, but instead by running them into the ground. The mission is demanding the latest and greatest to stay competitive. The technology is changing rapidly. IT specialists are challenged to keep up with training on new hardware, programming languages, systems development and project management techniques, best practice frameworks, and so forth, The Help Desk and Desktop support people are routinely yelled at by the customers. Security and privacy issues are a constant threat to operations. IT is denigrated as a support function, whose people don’t understand the business; IT is viewed as a utility and it’s people often pushed out for outsourcing.
Truly, in this type of demanding and challenging environment, it is tough for any IT organization and its people to maintain their dignity and spirituality. But that is precisely where the CIO/CTO must lead and demonstrate humanity and care for people. The true IT leader will impose structures to create order out of chaos and in so doing elevate people as the critical asset they truly are to the organization.
Here’s some ways we can do this:
- Treat all employees with respect and dignity by representing their interests in the organization, as well as abiding by at the very least minimal standards of professionalism and courtesy
- Partner with the business so that it’s not us versus them, but just one big US.
- Develop a meaningful architecture plan and sound IT governance so everyone understands the way ahead and is working off the “same sheet of music.”
- Manage business expectations—don’t overpromise and under deliver, which leads to frustration and anger; instead set challenging but attainable goals.
- Filter requirements through a “single belly button” of seasoned business liaisons, so that the rank and file employees aren’t mistreated for doing their sincere best.
- Provide training and tools for people to do their jobs and stay current and understand not only the technology, but the business.
Through these and other servant leader examples, we can integrate our spiritual and material lives and be the types of leaders that not only deliver, but that we can really be proud to be.