This blog series is about leadership techniques for a successful, large-scale digital transformation. The key to success, as a leader, is to not make it about oneself. If it is about “you,” then it is not about the customer, the team or the organization.
For the continued successful transformation of Illinois (we moved in a national ranking from the bottom 4th to the top 3rd in 50 states in 18 months), we focused on three simple leadership philosophies:
- Take the blame
- Share the fame
- Avoid the shame
Take the Blame
Governor Rauner empowered us in his first appearance in our first CIO Council meeting in early 2015, when he said, “I see technology playing a very critical role in the overall transformation of Illinois. Think transformational impact of technology and I will have your back.” Now this is extremely powerful when your CEO believes in the power of technology and the team, and is ready to take the blame if you fail occasionally.
By the way, per one of the CIOs, who was with the state for 30+ years, said Governor Rauner was the first sitting Governor to address State’s tech leadership. Having the Governor meet with us and deliver this message of empowerment lifted the team and set the tone for success.
Share the Fame
A leader must ensure that she/he is not taking the limelight. Transformation is a team sport and everyone plays their part. In the last 18 months, we ensure that all team members get the deserved credit. When it is cybersecurity, it must be Kirk Lonbom, our CISO, when it is IllinoisFIRST technology strategy, it must be Mike Wons, our CTO, when it is ERP, it must be Kevin O’Toole, our ERP program director, and so on. Also, we are working to enable state agencies. So agency leadership take the stage when a technology enables them. We are all working hard and proud of what we’ve accomplished. Sharing the fame builds trust further.
Avoid the Shame
In an HBR article “How will you measure your life,” Clayton Christensen gives three key theories to drive to a happy and successful life. One is “how to live a life of integrity.” Government has its own restrictions that drive its pace, fast or slow. However, those restrictions are built because you are spending taxpayers’ money. It is important that in trying to move fast (45 in 4: 45 years of progress in 4), you don’t take short cuts.
It is not about ‘me’
It is an honor to be a leader, and this is especially true in my current role and with this team. It is not about me. It is about inspirational people, meaty puzzles, incredible assets and nationally recognized momentum towards a better future. I am excited every morning when I come to work. Can you say the same? Did I mention we are hiring?