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Vanguard CIO's advice for rising leaders: Think like a gardener
So you want to be a CIO? Stop trying to be a chess master and start enabling other people to grow, says John Marcante
[Editor's note: As part of our ongoing series in which IT leaders offer advice to the next generation of CIOs, John Marcante, CIO of Vanguard, shares the words of wisdom that inspired him in his career.]
My first CIO job:
My first CIO job happens to be the one I’m currently in. I’ve been in IT and business at Vanguard for 24 years.
My titles at Vanguard, in order, have been: Head of Institutional Development (Division CIO), Head to Global Technology Infrastructure (all global infrastructure after 9/11/2001), Head of Six Sigma (Corporate agenda), Head of Vanguard Financial Planning (Business), Head of Asset Management services (Business), Head of High Networth (Business), and Managing Director, Global CIO and Security.
What my first CIO job taught me:
Technology is only 50 percent of the job. You’re part of an executive team that manages nearly $5 trillion in global assets. Never forget you are entrusted with people’s hopes and dreams.
My advice for aspiring CIOs:
Prepare yourself as a “blended” executive with a passion for the business and technology. It’s important to have skills and experiences outside of IT. That said, you have to have a true understanding of technology and what it can enable in your business. Remember you are part of a team that includes senior executives and board members. Build relationships and never put yourself first. The order should be clients, crew, colleagues, community, and then you.
I’d also pass along a few words of inspiration to aspiring IT leaders that have helped me in my career. Gen. Stan McChrystal once said that the temptation to lead as a chess master, controlling each move of the organization, must give way to an approach as a gardener, enabling rather than directing. A gardening approach to leadership is anything but passive. The leader acts as an “Eyes-On, Hands-Off” enabler who creates and maintains an ecosystem in which the organization operates. Another way to think about it is that gardeners don't produce fruit, plants do. Gardeners enable their growth.
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