Leadership Matters Most

I don’t think anyone would dispute that great leadership matters, and that it matters most at critical times. I also think we can win the argument that we’re in one of those critical times right now – as technology is dramatically changing at such a rapid pace and creating disruption, change and opportunities in virtually every business model and industry. Over the last century, successful businesses were described as ones that focused on the customer and continuous improvement. Though, as we move forward in this modern era, they will be described as focusing on the customer and continuously TRANSFORMING.

It’s in these periods of critical transformation that strong leaders need to step up, and as I wrote about recently in our blog, What Great Leaders Do Great, they must:

  • Set the Agenda
  • Build a Great Team
  • Deliver with Consistency

Since this era of high change is driven by digital technologies, every successful enterprise will need their IT leaders to step up and participate in articulating more than just the business outcomes. They now must also align and match the business outcomes with technical and organizational outcomes.

Key Traits of Great Leaders

With that being said, I’d like to give you some thoughts about some simple leadership traits that distinguish good leaders from great leaders.

  • First and foremost, great leaders “SHOW UP”. This seems self-evident, but being a great leader is hard work. It takes being “in the fight” – working directly with frontline employees, talking directly with customers, going on sales calls with the sales team and sitting in on project reviews – as opposed to getting all of that information from intermediaries and staff.
  • Great leaders are “OPTIMISTIC”. A pessimist can’t work through adversity, and if you’re doing anything worthwhile, you’ll have plenty of things going wrong. However, an optimist that doesn’t have the realistic facts (because they didn’t “Show Up”) is just a cheerleader – not a problem solver.
  • Another trait of great leaders is “COURAGE”. This is the willingness to take chances, make decisions, adjust plans and admit when you’re wrong. If you’re going to make great progress, your decision-making speed needs to increase dramatically. You won’t be perfectly right all the time, and that’s okay. You have to become comfortable with being mostly right and getting a lot of “at bats”. If you show up and have an optimistic mindset, your courage as a leader should follow.
  • One final trait is “TECHNICAL SAVVY”. Afterall, we are leading a technical discipline. While you don’t have to be the most technically adept, you have to work hard to at least know enough to make solid architectural and engineering decisions. More importantly, you must surround yourself with individuals that you can turn to for additional knowledge, insights and support. Keep in mind, that having immense technical savvy does nothing for your leadership abilities if you don’t know the facts, keep an optimistic mindset in the face of adversity and having the courage to take the risks that are required for true, impactful business transformation.

As you can see these, four characteristics are connected and are a part of every great leader. The team with the best leaders always wins. Particularly in times of high change. That’s why leaders matter the most.

Author: Charlie Feld, Founder, The Feld Group Institute
Connect with Charlie Feld on LinkedIn

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Russell Villemez

Affiliate, The Feld Group Institute

Head of Technology Strategy, Dialexa – a Feld Group Institute partner

Highly regarded CTO and change agent with IT strategy and enterprise architecture expertise.

Russell Villemez is an Affiliate with the Feld Group Institute and the head of Technology Strategy at Dialexa, a Technology Research, Design and Creation firm that works with organizations on initiatives such as Operational Transformation, Business Growth, and New Venture Creation.

During 17 years in operational roles and 15 years in consulting roles, Russell has worked across a variety of industries in both executive leadership positions and as a subject matter expert. Russell thrives on the scale and complexity of leading major change agendas in large corporate environments.

Recent consulting clients include AmerisourceBergen, the American Automobile Association, Brinker International, Cubic, Equifax, and Cox Automotive. A common thread is the client’s need for strong leadership during a period of change—whether motivated by acquisitions, spin-offs, competitive pressures, or other factors. Clients also benefit from Russell’s expertise in enterprise architecture, agile development, application portfolio rationalization, technology and architecture strategy, as well as business strategy and commercial software product development.

Recognized as a versatile IT executive, adept at solving complex problems with innovative solutions, Russell’s capabilities and achievements span a continuum from business-strategy formation to hands-on IT solution development. His extensive career achievements include pioneering the first use of relational databases in high-volume transaction systems in the ‘80s, applying voice recognition DSPs in public intelligent network services for consumer markets in the ‘90s, and leading large-scale adoptions of open systems, object technology, and middleware frameworks in complex business environments, often in advance of commercially available software products.

Prior to joining Dialexa, Russell served at HP as Enterprise Services Chief Technology Officer for the Americas, leading a global capability for embedded Account CTOs in large enterprises. Russell began his career at Accenture, where he first crafted his consultative problem-solving approach, later honed at A.T. Kearny and the Feld Group. Russell’s deep telecom experience is built upon numerous director and enterprise architect positions at AT&T, Bell Atlantic, Telstra, US West, Pacific Bell, and Sprint, and as V.P. and CIO for WebLink Wireless.

Russell has a BS in Business Administration from Louisiana State University and an MBA from Vanderbilt University. In his spare time, Russell participates in amateur auto racing, and is a driving instructor with the Porsche Club of America.