Key Leadership Attributes, Part 1 - Lessons Learned from Central Ohio IT

March 15, 2019 6 min Read

What Are Key Leadership Attributes?

With a great deal of help, I put together an IT leadership development program – Central Ohio IT – in 2017 for aspiring CIOs in Central Ohio.  The following message is my effort to share what I’ve learned from the tremendous CIO guest speakers that have presented as part of the program. Central Ohio IT is a peer group that meets monthly to network, discuss ideas, learn from experienced speakers, and establish collaborative relationships with the goal of nurturing the next generation of Columbus IT leadership. Several times throughout the year, the peer group will host CIOs as guest speakers to discuss various aspects of IT leadership. The following lesson learned is based off of my interpretation of a recent presentation by Bruce Barnes, a very well respected educator in Central Ohio, most well-known for his continuing professional development series CIO Solutions Gallery.

I met Bruce in 2005 while I was at Platform Lab, but got involved with his CIO Practicum/Solutions Gallery events about the time I moved to Expedient in 2011. The content and the speakers at the CIO Solutions Gallery are outstanding, and I learn each time I attend.  If you are in IT leadership, it is well worth investing your time in participating in these sessions. His presenting partner, Thornton May, will often ask very difficult questions that the attendees will work through in small groups.  The working groups are very different from event to event and that is one of the best parts about attending – working on hard questions with very smart people with different viewpoints. During 2018, the theme of the CIO Solutions Gallery series was Leadership, which worked very well for Bruce’s presentation. The first half of Bruce’s presentation focused on Change and can be found here.

This ‘Lessons Learned’ blog post is based on the second half of Bruce’s presentation, which focused on Leadership. Bruce ran through his Top 10 key attributes of a Leader, but not necessarily an IT Leader. Here are my key takeaways:

  1. Responsibility is key and it requires courage
    • Being responsible will make some people mad.  You must do what is morally right and professionally right and there will be obstacles. Making difficult choices is what you are getting paid to do and you need to do them well and you need to do them in a timely manner.
    • Earlier in my career, I had run a team and I made a major mistake by not expecting everyone on the team to work as hard as I did. The team performance suffered, and I made my own trap of working too hard to compensate for their lack of performance. If I find myself in a similar situation later in my career, I will handle this leadership aspect differently.
  2. Military style communication
    • Bruce’s background in the US Army provided a great deal of background on effective communication.
      • Situational Awareness: “Exactly Where Are We Positioned Now?”
      • Vision and Objective Awareness: “Where In Turn Do We Need To Be, And How Will We Precisely Know When We Are There?”
      • Operational Awareness: “What Is Our Conceptual Plan For Getting There?”
      • Preparation Awareness: “Have We Identified and Secured All We Need For The Journey?”
      • Role and Control Awareness: “Who Is Responsible For What, And How Do We Plan To Communicate Along The Way?”
    • Once we reviewed these, I thought that it needs to be communicated from the point of view as the leader, and it can work for any aspect - a project, a program or division of a business, the business, or an entire industry.  The greater level of vision and introspection that leaders have will be directly proportional to the level of success that can be achieved. Which is a solid segue into Bruce’s next point.
    • As disruption is so prevalent in our industry, I might add Disruption: “What Might Go Wrong and How Do We Adjust.” Per the noted philosopher, Mike Tyson: “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”
  3. Leadership is lonely, but you need to rely on others
    • Listen and learn from as many viable, honest sources as you can in order to gain the most credible viewpoint on the five communication points discussed above. Interview your leaders, but be sure to challenge them on why they have made the decisions that they have.  Often, you may find yourself relying on too few sources of information – be sure to balance the information acquisition with the time invested, the risk that it may not be completely accurate and the perspective of those that are providing it.
  4. Past, present and future
    • There is nothing you can do about the past and very little you can do about the present.  Be focused on what you will do in the future, then do it.  Your actions now will only affect the future.  Look to gain awareness and anticipation of what you need to do to ensure success in the future. All good plans start with the desired outcome, a smart and reasonable path to get there and how success will be measured.
  5. Execution is paramount
    • Great ideas and visions are worthless if not executed effectively and efficiently. Human nature is to get bored when a work routine becomes routine, so make sure the details are found and worked through. Often here is where the leader can make a difference by challenging the routine to be better.

In next week’s post, I will cover the balance of Bruce’s Top 10 Leadership attributes that were discussed at Central Ohio IT

If you’re interested in discussing the IT Leaders program, digital transformation, cloud technology or how to get involved with Central Ohio’s IT community, please reach out to me at

Steve Gruetter Steve Gruetter

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