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Management Tips: Colin Powell’s Leadership Primer

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I thought, “What a great blog!”, after reading Graham’s piece on management. It brought to mind Colin’s Powel’s (CP) lessons on leadership which I’m reproducing here as extracts in a two part blog. All of them apply to IT Managers. I have added a few words of interpretation to each as I see them.

Enjoy!
Stephen Ibaraki, FCIPS, I.S.P.
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Part 1/2

CP 1: “Being responsible sometimes means pissing people off.”

Change management is the byword today. What is crucial for organizational growth or agility requires repurposing of processes and people. Not everyone wants this change. Strong leadership through continual communication and team involvement works to manage this process.

CP 2: “The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help them or concluded that you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.”

You need to keep an open door policy where people are encouraged to express their ideas and challenges too! How can there be innovation or improvement without an open dialogue?
Moreover, it is productive to setup a dynamic exchange or interactive incremental improvement model. Rather than just agreeing or disagreeing with ideas, also provide an environment for solutions or added insights to problems or innovations to move forward. “I don’t like this new company policy because…and I feel by doing this…there can be improvement.” “We need to move into this new area…by trying this approach…”

CP 3: “Don’t be buffaloed by experts and elites. Experts often possess more data than judgment.”

Diversity of input from a variety of perspectives leads ultimately to deeper insights than depending upon one expert. Isolated data without meaningful context and interpretation can lead to problematic solutions. As one example, there is a drive to broaden the audience and participants here in CIM. This makes for a much richer environment. There are benefits to maintaining an entrepreneurial spirit in your teams where everyone is actively engaged and contributing. I have blogged about it before, but it is one of Gartner’s recommendations to building your career – to work for a startup where everyone takes a share of the load and takes on many tasks. In this entrepreneurial environment, there isn’t a dependence only upon experts.

CP 4: “Don’t be afraid to challenge the pros, even in their own backyard.”

Ask questions to provide deeper insight and to explore all the nooks and crannies. Have confidence in your abilities to connect to your needs and challenges mining expertise from a variety of sources.

CP 5: “Never neglect the details. When everyone’s minds is dulled or distracted the leader must be doubly vigilant.”

The key here is to have both viewpoints: the overall roadmap but also the necessary details required to manage and push for success. It sponsors growth to encourage input and maintain active communications with those on the front lines too.

CP 6: “You don’t know what you can get away with until you try.”

There is a certain truth to asking for forgiveness later. I believe that there is success in taking the next step and not to be overwhelmed with the uncertainties. If you have an idea that moves your organization forward, why not try to take it into action? Beware of over-thinking everything which leads to inaction!

CP 7: “Keep looking below surface appearances. Don’t shrink from doing so (just) because you mind not like what you find.”

I have blogged about conducting a frequent SWOT analysis—either for personal career growth or to support the success of your organization. This is where you assess internal Strengths and Weaknesses versus external Opportunities and Threats. What this really means is to ensure you have a continual assessment of your environment and your place in it. Plus you make adjustments to ensure growth.

CP 8: “Organization doesn’t really accomplish anything. Plans don’t accomplish anything, either. Theories of management don’t much matter. Endeavors succeed or fail because of the people involved. Only by attracting the best people will you accomplish great deeds.”

People are the centerpiece of every great innovation or success. Community is an extension to this rule such as with EnergizeIT; or with the audience for this forum, reading, commenting and blogging. Professional Societies such as CIPS provide a local, regional, national, and internationally home or base for IT professionals where you can network, exchange ideas, find real solutions, and enhance your career.
The glue that binds people are relationships and interaction and for IT managers, continual collaboration and discussion, with your team is the basis of great leadership. In the podcast with Ben Grebinski, 2005 Computing Canada IT Executive of the Year Award recipient, he talks about taking a little time up front in his meetings to address the individual contributions of each of his staff. This keeps his team working together and having passion about their work.

CP 9: “Organization charts and fancy titles count for next to nothing.”

I see a lot of flat “high touch” organizations who are making inroads in many areas. If you watch the upswing in the market it is about quick uptake, instant communications, working in communities. Everyone can share their ideas and feel heard. Energy and passion drive organizational spirit no matter where they exist in the hierarchy.

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