Key Leadership Attributes, Part 2 - Lessons Learned from Central Ohio IT

Steve Gruetter

Category: IT Leadership

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 the most important traits of a good leader in general.

Bruce ran through his Top 10 leadership attributes, which weren’t specific to IT leadership. My breakdown of the first five can be found here.  Here are my key takeaways of the second five attributes:

  1. Paralysis by Analysis
    • Having a well- designed plan is important.  Early in my career, I would be rightfully accused of a ‘ready, fire, aim’ approach. Sometimes you will run into a situation where someone simply does not want to make a decision and will continue to collect and mine for data, just to put off a decision
    • Trust your judgement – don’t be overrun with opinion from the experts.  Listen to them, but trust you own eyes and ears
    • Procrastination in the name of risk creates stagnation and actually increases risk.  There is true risk in doing nothing
    • If the numbers support the probability of success to 60-70%, go with it
      • I believe that I would enjoy playing Euchre with Bruce
  1. Inspiration does not wait for approval
    • Often a great idea needs layers of approval – or simply proof that it is a great idea
    • Sometimes you will need to ask for forgiveness
    • Don’t be reckless
    • Don’t be reckless – saying it twice
  1. The KISS Theory
    • Per Bruce, a great leader is someone that can take a complex situation, cut though an argument, eliminate debate and doubt in order to offer a solution that can be easily understood
    • The more that you can define the alignment of your team, the greater clarity they will have – and that leads to working with a purpose
    • I will argue that nothing builds the credibility of leadership in the eyes of your team as a solid definition of the vision of leadership
    • Empower the team that drives success and revenue, rather than the team that accounts for the expenditures
    • I have had the pleasure of working for Bryan Smith the majority of my Expedient career and I can say that no one is better at simplifying a mountain of data, noise and opinion and creating a view of a job that is achievable and shows impact to the company. This simplification leads to inspiration and belief that we can be successful.
  1. ‘You Win With People!’ – noted historian Wayne Woodrow Hayes
    • As a leader, you need to respect and listen to every member of the team – help each person evolve
    • Drive the best possible culture in every team
    • Take care of your people and they will take care of the clients
    • Titles mean very little – be flexible and dynamic
    • You need to hire great people and continue to develop them – it takes too long to hire a bad egg and turn them around
    • You are you, your team is a team of individuals – you are not your job and they are not their job
    • A positive can-do attitude goes a long way in the workplace
    • Integrity cannot be overvalued
  1. Gauging success and failure of leadership
    • Self-awareness is key – Be critical and honest with yourself
    • When your team no longer brings you their problems, then they have determined that you cannot help them, or do not care
    • Remove all barriers to upward communication
    • If upward communication is met with harsh criticism, you will no longer have the benefit of receiving it
    • Real leadership can be lonely – as it is hard to make hard decisions well and many will flinch from the opportunity to make a decision
    • Strive to have fun at what you do

Our class loved Bruce’s presentation on change and leadership, I hope that you have enjoyed it as well. In next week’s post, I will cover another great presentation that was discussed at Central Ohio IT

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

Have any questions for Steve Gruetter?

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