One of the perks of straddling the academic/practitioner divide is that sometimes you get to meet, bask in the reflected glory of, and have interesting discussions with luminaries in the same space – sometimes several at once. One such occasion for me is the next Academy of Management conference in New Orleans, where I will proudly lead an All-Academy symposium titled Executive Leadership and Information Technology: A Fragile Dance. (If you happen to be at the conference, it is in the New Orleans Marriott, 10:40am – 12:00am, Monday August 9 2004)
There will be two presenters and two discussants: Presenting the business viewpoint will be James (Jim) Cash, retired professor at the Harvard Business School and now on the board of General Electric and Microsoft (as well as working with the Concours Group). Weighing in for the technology side will be John Seely Brown, former Chief Scientist of Xerox Corporation and Director or Xerox PARC, and now a celebrated author and speaker on new roles and uses of information technology. The first discussant, from the viewpoint of IT economics and outsourcing, will be Vijay Gurbaxani, professor of IT at UC Irvine. A viewpoint based in strategic leadership processes will be given by Mark Kriger, professor of strategy at the Norwegian School of Management.
The idea with the symposium is to examine the role of information technology and executive leadership in a world of increasingly pervasive and standardized use of technology – or, to be more blunt about it, not discuss whether IT is important or not, but perhaps try to understand why the question even comes up.
Some initial questions I have posed to the presenters are:
- Can IT and IT use still provide competitive advantage?
- How is the relationship between IT and executive leadership influenced by
- Increasing standardization of the technology?
- Increasing proliferation of the technology?
- Increasing outsourcing of the technology?
- Increased consumerization and personal familiarity with the technology?
- What is the role of IT, both myth and reality, in creating actionable knowledge in organizations?
- What are the dance steps – the organizational practices and procedures necessary – to make the relationship between business and IT work proceed fluidly and elegantly?
I think this will be a very interesting discussion – and would welcome comments and questions on any of these aspects, the better to sharpen the viewpoints and backgrounds – what do you think of these issues out there? What questions and issues would you see brought up in a discussion on the relationship between IT and strategic leadership?
Executives Need an Effective Leadership Strategy
Superior leadership is a strategy to inspire people to do more, dream more and learn more. Values are the centerpiece of that strategy because everyone respects high standards of all the good values like industry, fairness, forthrighness, compassion, honesty, etc while they disrespect low or negative standards.
Listening is the most important leadership skill of that strategy because people cannot be motivated or committed to something if they can’t “put in their own two cents”, when they want and how they want, or if they can’t understand and be in on the decision process for things which affect them. Of such things is trust built.
So what should bosses do?? It starts with providing employees regular opportunities, one-on-one and in groups, to express their complaints, suggestions and questions. These must be answered fully and in a timely fashion, no hipshooting please. All of the boss’ actions is so doing must meet the highest standards of common values like honesty, respect, fairness, forthrighness, industriousness, admission of error, knowledge, quality, and the like. As the boss corrects the complaints, the boss’ leadership toward higher standards improves because people generally only complain about things which reflect low standards, your leadership.
These actions will have many effects on employees. As their complaints are respectfully addressed, they will begin to believe that their bosses care about them. They will start to believe that they are valued team members. They will learn how to fix things using the highest standards for all values. They will learn how best to treat their customers, each other and their work. They will start to use their own
brains and actions to solve workplace problems, to innovate and to work more effectively, all because the boss is showing such high regard and respect for them. Productivity will rise and keep rising. Creativity, motivation and commitment will do likewise, but only so long as their complaints, suggestions and questions continue to be addressed regularly, respectfully and completely. Why even make a complaint or a
suggestion if no action will be taken? Why not “leave one’s brain at the door”?
There is much more to a superior leadership strategy because there are many other ways in which employees react to the leadership messages present in the workplace. Each of these ways must be taken into effect in designing an effective leadership strategy. Go to http://www.bensimonton.com if interested in learning more.
Best regards, Ben