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Gordon Ross: Leadership Lessons and Career Tips

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This is the next interview in the continuing series of Computing Canada’s (CC) Blogged Down (BD) which is featured here “first” in the Canadian IT Managers (CIM) forum.

We began this blog series on September 15th, 2006. I continue my talk with Gordon Ross, Internet Filtering Pioneer, Biometrics / Security / Telecommunications / Ethics / Privacy Expert, Founder of Net Nanny; President of Virtual Perceptions Systems Inc.

Stephen: With your long history of considerable successes, what leadership lessons can you share that would be of value to business and IT decision makers?

Gordon:  I have been very fortunate, and I have also experienced very painful situations. The lessons I have learned are many. However, I believe first and foremost you must truly believe in what you are doing and be happy with that. Surround yourself with good people and work with them to instill teamwork. As a decision maker you must accept full responsibility for your decisions. You must allow those who work with you to be able to have their input heard. At the same time you must also hold them responsible for their decisions.

Do not use the old management style of “my way or the highway”.  I have always treated those who work with me as individuals who are all part of the same team. They have the right to express their opinions, ideas, or concerns. You must also be able to allow and take criticism. It takes a strong cohesive team to win in the business world; an individual cannot do it alone. A good team will always look after and identify the weaknesses within the team. An open door policy is also very important. Treat all your employees as you yourself would like to be treated - and more importantly, respect them. A smile and please and thank-you go a long way. Do a lot of MBWA (Management By Walking Around) and talk to your employees, and more importantly, listen to what they have to say. 

Stephen:  As a mentor, what career tips would you provide to business and technology professionals?

Gordon:  I would say join the technological revolution. Don’t stagnate or sit idle. Get involved or else you will be left behind. The technology industry offers a diverse area for careers. You can choose self-employment or organizational employment. The opportunities now and in the future are only limited by one’s own imagination.

In choosing a career in this industry, first believe in yourself. For all those times you are told you can’t do this, you are stupid, or you don’t know what you are talking about, look past that. Focus on your dreams, your goals and you will achieve them. Throw the word “can’t” away. It only means there is an issue or an excuse. The only thing that prevents success is you; not your boss or any other individual. Anything can be achieved as long as you have the belief and focus. A wise man, (my father), once told me that only three things are needed for a successful venture: a product, people, and money. If you have two out of the three you can always find the third, but you have to have two out of the three.

Another thing is to listen. Keep your eyes and ears open. Stay in touch and in tune with the technological community you are involved in. Read and absorb as much as you can. Attend trade shows and conferences, walk the floor and talk to people. Continually educate yourself and push the boundaries.

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In the next blog, Gordon will discuss future Internet trends
, the main challenges facing businesses, and the issues for companies or organizations taking on a new direction.


I also encourage you to share your thoughts here on these interviews or send me an e-mail at sibaraki@cips.ca.
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Computing Canada (CC) is the oldest, largest, most influential bi-weekly business / technology print publication with an audience that includes 42,000 IT decision makers in medium-to-large enterprises. For more than 30 years, Computing Canada continues to serve the needs of Canada’s information technology management community—you can request your free subscription at: http://www.cornerstonewebmedia.com/plesman/main/Subscription.asp?magazine=CCA.

For the latest online business technology news go to: www.itbusiness.ca
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Thank you,
Stephen Ibaraki, FCIPS, I.S.P.

Comments
  • Gordon, your comments about leadership are 'spot on'. I could not have captured my own philosophy any better. Anyone aspiring to a leadership position would be well served to both commit them to memory and more importantly to heart.

    There are some important implications behind your advice. If you want respect as a leader (absolutely essential) then you MUST respect those that you lead. You must be 'open' and approachable as a person; there is no room for ego. It takes experience and a special skill to get people to feel part of a team and yet at the same time respect your decisions when they may not be universally popular.

    You must avoid the 'familiarity breeds contempt' situation at all costs. It is good to be seen as part of the team by those you lead but don't get too close. It will cloud your judgement and rebound on you very badly. Should you go to the pub with the 'team'? Sure why not but be very careful! Buy your round; show that you are interested in your team socially. However, you will likely be plied with questions that you wouldn't get at work. Don't ever fall into the trap of thinking that if you throw them a 'few scraps' to gain favour with them that it won't matter.

    As much as people would love to find out what's 'going on', ultimately they will respect you more for showing the reponsibility of your position. Just tell them firmly but politely that you are not in a position to discuss certain things and move on. How's your wife? How's the new baby? How's your golf game? Who's round is it?

    Gordon, I have enjoyed all of your input, and the knowledge and experience you bring. Thank you for taking the time to do this.

    Cheers
    Graham J.

  • Graham,

    When I was working on a Masters, dynamic contribution was emphasized. That is, always look to add to any exchange by personal experience, references to other work/research, contributing new ideas, synthesizing or tying together related ideas, providing analysis with conclusions, giving application with examples, or evaluating to put into perspective. You always do this, which takes time however it provides value to others.

    Thank you,
    Stephen Ibaraki

  • Jason, Dan,

    Gordon provides a valuable perspective that is worth sharing with others...a kind of affiliate network for knowledge distribution and career growth. By linking in, you are contributing to this ecosystem...

    Thank you,
    Stephen Ibaraki

  • Graham and Stephen:

    Thanks for your comments.

    Graham, your mention of “no room for ego” is an important one.  At the recording studio that I was involved in there was a sign for all “Artists” that entered.  The sign read “Check Your EGO at the Door”.  It always worked and saved large amounts of time during recording sessions.

    I learned many experiences from being in the military.  One of the most memorable is the value of life and how short it can be.  

    I am a real believer this adventure we are on, called "life", is a short one and we should leave the world a better place.  In doing so, we should have fun, learn, express our ideas, and share our knowledge.  Never be afraid to express yourself. If you are in the position of being a Leader, lead.  However, never forget that those that you may be leading may one day be your leader.  So always show respect and gratitude.

    I am always open to ideas and "spirited" conversation.  If I can be of help to anyone, I can always be reached at "gordonrossA@yahoo.com".

    Again, thank you for your comments.
    Gordon.

  • Gordon, You have so many stories to tell, perhaps share one from your military days. Cheers, Stephen Ibaraki

  • I have many stories form my days in the military. One of the more important ones, I think, deals with leadership. We had a commanding officer who was misappropriating gov't property and soldiers for his own personal use and mistreating veteran non-commissioned soldiers. The outcome was a couple of us put our rear-ends on the line and decide enough was enough. We informed the Inspector General's office. When it came time to present material to them, the majority of the complainer's back off until we told them we were all part of this team and as such we need the show of force. Because we were right in what we did the team rose and backed us on our position. We were "whistleblowers" before the term was ever used. Needless to say there was an investigation and the officer was finally relieved of his post. The lesson learned was sometimes you have to put you own life and career on the line for the betterment of the masses. The morale in the unit was so bad that no one ever wanted to go into battle with this individual as the leader. It was generally felt he would be the first one to "buy it." He had lost all of the respect amongst those that were willing to be on the front line. His ultimate downfall was his ego and "lust" for power. He ultimately came up against a team he could not beat. As I have said in the past, it is important to treat your team (employees) well and respect them. Needless to say the Company moved on and a new leader was put in charge and the unit regained its respect.

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