5 leadership lessons for 2018

2017 set the stage for change: Now strong leadership is required. Business and IT leaders share key lessons for the year ahead
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2017 laid the groundwork for a lot of change in IT. DevOps went mainstream as companies traded slow waterfall processes for business agility. Automation of routine IT tasks enabled leaders to refocus their teams on innovation. The ongoing push toward digital transformation positioned IT as a primary driver of revenue and competitive differentiator for businesses across all industries.

[ Read our related article by ServiceNow CIO Chris Bedi, How automation helped my IT team make time for innovation. ]

In 2018, IT teams are poised to take advantage of new technologies shaping the future of business – but amidst all this change, one thing remains constant. They need strong leadership to make it happen.

We asked CIOs and business leaders to share something key that 2017 taught them. Some said the year brought them new insights into what it takes to lead during times of incredible change. Others went back to their leadership roots for lessons that still hold true. Read on for five reflections on 2017 that offer invaluable advice for the year ahead.

Don't underestimate the fear of change - plan for it

Michael Smith, VP & CIO, American Academy of Family Physicians: “I am currently leading an end-to-end digital transformation for one of the largest healthcare associations in the United States. It requires extensive change management and adoption by the organization for it to be successful. One of the key lessons I have learned and what has made this effort successful to date is not under-estimating the impact or potential fear the organization has in making significant changes to their processes. Be patient; persevere through the challenges and obstacles, and allow the business to catch-up with the overall vision, even if it prolongs the process. If you do, change will be much more palatable for the organization.”

Don't sacrifice effective decision-making for agility 

Mihai Strusievici, director of information technology, North America, Colliers International: “Regardless of how in tune you think you are with your organization, making decisions based on what you believe the rest of the group wants and supports is extremely dangerous. There is no replacement for following a good decision-making process even if, at times, it looks like going against the agility that is so important today. Slow down on the key points so you can accelerate in between.”

Do the right thing - even when it's hard

Dave Broad, information security and audit lead in operations, Echoworx: “A leader who is unwilling to take on hardship for the values that he/she claims to promote is not really committed to them. Sometimes doing the right thing is hard and has a risk of personal sacrifice or loss. Challenging an entrenched process, providing objective opinions of performance of other leaders, or taking a stand to end harassment are all things a leader might have to do that carry a risk of reprisals or, in extreme cases, loss of a role. A leader who is willing to hold back on issues like these or is willing to sacrifice honesty and integrity in order to maintain their current position has ceased to be a leader.”

Don't let too many ideas dilute your focus

Derek Hutson, CEO, Datical: “While I can’t say this is a lesson I learned for the first time in 2017, the year did remind me of an important leadership lesson. That lesson is about focus. One of the challenges as you grow is the number of good ideas that are generated. It’s easy to begin with a very focused mission and strategy to accomplish that mission. But over time, even the most focused organizations allow the implementation of too many good ideas to dilute the focus that is paramount and what made them successful in the first place. Let’s be clear, I’m not saying organizations shouldn’t evolve, adapt, and be nimble. That’s not what focus is about. Focus is about doing a few things better than anyone else. It’s about saying what you will do, but also what you will STOP doing. Remember – stay focused.”

Do become a full-stack leader

Jaspreet Singh, founder and CEO, Druva: “I’ve learned the importance of being a ‘full-stack leader.’ A full-stack leader combines vision, inspiration, and execution in one. It includes having the conviction of one’s own ideas and thoughts about how to make the business successful. A full-stack leader inspires the best team with the grand vision so they can bring creativity to their roles and are motivated to act. Execution is the day-to-day of goal setting, conflict resolution, digging deep, and having a bias for action. If I have the vision but can’t execute, it’s a dream. And, if I execute without vision, it’s a nightmare. Like a full-stack software developer, I’ll be taking the importance of combining the front-end and back-end management architectures required for success in 2018.”

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Carla Rudder is a community manager and program manager for The Enterprisers Project. She enjoys bringing new authors into the community and helping them craft articles that showcase their voice and deliver novel, actionable insights for readers.  

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