In the world of IT, knowledge of your systems –inside and out – is not the only requirement in order to move your way up the executive ladder. Now, more than ever, IT personnel need to exhibit leadership qualities that will help propel the organization into the next tier. It starts with knowing your business, the industry, and learning the power of disruption.
On an episode of IT Visionaries, we wanted to dive deeper into these subjects and learn how to implement them for an IT-centric business, so we asked Earl Newsome, VP and CIO of Praxair – a twelve billion dollar company manufacturer of industrial gas products – to share with us how he got into IT, how the lessons he learned from the military that have helped him, and how his seven habits for effective IT leadership have shaped his practices.
Transition From the Military to Civilian World
Earl served in the Army, and we asked him to share some of the many lessons the military taught him during his time in service. He often
“I’ve learned something from each of my transitions. From the military – I learned a lot about taking care of people. I always call it ‘taking care of soldiers’. It’s just ensuring your soldiers are equipped, trained, and practice effectively. I take those same three things and make sure that the consultants that I operate with have the right equipment, are taught well, and practice effectively. The other principle I took from the military is strategic leadership – or what I call 360-degree leadership. That’s knowing how to do things strategically, tactically, and technically. Strategically: you know which hill to take, tactically: you know how to take the hill safely, and technically: you can roll your sleeves up and take the hill. When you do those things well, you’ll bring your soldiers back from the battlefield alive in the best shape possible.”
Be Triple Deep
One of Earl’s principles of effective IT leadership is being “triple deep”. This means that you have to know the business, know the industry, and know where it is going. Earl mentions being triple deep as a key component to maturing as an IT Executive.
“A triple deep IT professional has both business expertise and industrial expertise. The higher up you want to mature as an IT executive, you more need to know how your business makes money, the more you need to know how your industry competes, and how you compete – the more you need to know where that industry is going. You also need to know how technology is impacting that industry, and then understand what technology is available to you. That’s about being triple deep.”
Get Your Business Passport
Being a good IT leader not only requires the knowledge of knowing the industry and your competition – it also requires that you know what others are doing in the organization. Earl calls it “experiencing the edge of the business.”
“You have to go get your business passport stamp as an IT professional. What that means is you have to go out there and experience the edge of the business. Go take a ride with a salesperson. Go visit a plant and walk the manufacturing floor. Go talk to a salesperson. Go to Accounting and see how they utilize our systems. Until you see how they use their systems, you will not understand when sales tell you that ten seconds is unbearable when they are trying to close a deal with a customer at the counter. If you had forty customers in line and each transaction takes ten additional seconds, you’re going lose customers at the counter.”
Have A Consultant Mindset
One of the most effective ways to lead people is approaching problems with a consultant mindset. The mindset consists of using data and information to solve challenges, and Earl mentions that using this technique will help you be agile and more adaptable to the challenges facing business.
“The consultant mindset is how you apply methodologies and framework to solve business problems. Recently, I read ‘Getting to Yes’ and, in the book, it talked about moving from divergent thinking to convergent thinking – using business information to think about how to solve business problems. I think that’s a great model to have in your toolkit, and you should apply it where you need to. Being agile is another way to do it, as well, and it’s important to have questioning and thinking techniques in our toolkit. That way, when we are called to the table, we have a strategy we can get on the whiteboard and start walking through it.”
Be A Disruptor
In order to innovate and stay ahead of your competition, disruption is often needed. Earl promotes idea generation and testing as a methodology to be an effective leader.
“I love the concept that you are either the disruptor or the disrupted. Disruption is happening no matter where you are. In every industry, somebody’s thinking about how to eat your lunch. So if somebody’s thinking about it, you might as well be thinking about it. Be bold and outthink your competition. Test different ways, and then adopt them into your business practices. Be the appropriate disruptor in your businesss, and think about the ways that your business can be disrupted.”
Check out more from Earl and other episodes of IT Visionaries by clicking here.