Earlier this year, I read an excellent op-ed column in the New York Times about the drivers of success. The column described how different cultures prepare their children for success, but it just as easily could have been written about IT leaders in the modern enterprise.
The authors observe that "...strikingly successful groups in America today share three traits that, together, propel success. The first is a superiority complex - a deep-seated belief in their exceptionality. The second appears to be the opposite - insecurity, a feeling that you or what you've done is not good enough. The third is impulse control."
The authors refer to the three traits as the "Triple Package," and it strikes me as a highly accurate description of the "soft skills" required for successful executive leadership in today's hyper-competitive business environments. Let's unpack the concept and see how it applies to IT leaders.
First, great IT leaders are confident and secure. They believe deeply and sincerely in their abilities to analyze difficult problems and devise elegant solutions, quickly and effectively.
Second, they tend to be strivers - the best IT leaders I know are people who are always looking for ways to do their job better. They are never quite satisfied; they always want to take the game to the next level.
Third, they are patient. They don't rush into something just because everyone else thinks it's cool. They resist grasping for the next "shiny object" that comes into view. They are calm, cool and disciplined. Sometimes their scientific approach to solving problems irritates their colleagues, but it's a critical factor in their success. They don't run off half-cocked; they wait and make sure they've considered all the angles before investing the company's money in a new technology.
Sometimes their patience and discipline are mistaken for timidity and arrogance. But the truth is that great IT leaders see themselves as trusted stewards of the company's valuable resources. They avoid making mistakes because they know the risks and the downsides. They aren't fearful; they are careful.
Great IT leaders are exceptional people. They have strength, courage and patience. They succeed because they combine a variety of key personality traits - the "soft skills" we often talk about - when we describe visionary executives.
I'm proud to work with such talented people. It's an honor and a privilege. Together, we are shaping the future of IT and empowering a new era of economic growth.
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