Defining Leadership

What constitutes IT leadership? What milestones must an IT executive reach to achieve that status? What recognition or position must he attain in order to become a leader in a profession that counts among its members some of the most dynamic and innovative individuals any of us will ever encounter?

I found the answers to those questions in my own recent encounters with some of those individuals. Last month, I asked a favor of several CIOs in the San Francisco Bay area.

IDG, Computerworld's parent company, was holding a meeting of its editors from around the world, and I asked the CIOs to talk to us about their professional concerns and about how we as journalists can do a better job of delivering the information they need.

Two of the people who dropped everything to come by were Satish Ajmani, CIO of Santa Clara County, Calif., and Sateesh Lele, chairman of Global Data Systems USA and former CIO at Frito-Lay and Avon Products. Their message was clear: More than anything, they want no-holds-barred accounts of enterprise technology applications -- not vendor "success stories," but the actual experiences of their peers, warts and all, so that they can learn how real-world IT problems are solved.

A couple of weeks earlier in Orlando, another group of IT professionals had gathered at a Computerworld summit on conquering IT complexity. Addressing the issue were Dan Agronow of The Weather Channel, Frank Enfanto of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts, Allan Frank of Answerthink, Louis Gutierrez of the University of Massachusetts Medical School, and Joe Puglisi of Emcor. Their candid accounts of dealing with IT complexity were an intriguing precursor to the message that would be delivered by their peers in San Francisco.

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Ajmani, Lele, Agronow, Enfanto, Frank, Gutierrez and Puglisi are IT leaders because they do what IT leaders do: They sacrifice their time and share their knowledge and experience to serve the IT profession. All these individuals have something else in common: Each one of them is a past Premier 100 honoree.

Each of them can take heart in the fact that this year's class of Premier 100 IT Leaders has continued that tradition of selfless service -- of giving back to the profession. Many serve as mentors, nurturing the next generation of IT leaders.

Kay Palmer of J.B. Hunt Transport Services uses mentoring and coaching to teach promising employees technical, business and diplomatic skills because, she explains, very few leaders naturally possess all three.

John Schindler of Kichler Lighting has a process in place to identify "fast-track individuals," and he monitors their development. "I know the individuals I'll be grooming and investing time in," he says.

Bill Regehr of Boys & Girls Clubs of America is determined to give back as well. "A lot of people invested in me," he says. "I owe it to the next generation to pass that on."

We extend our heartfelt thanks and congratulations to Palmer, Schindler, Regehr and the rest of this year's Premier 100 IT Leader award recipients. In doing so, we recognize, as they do, that it's not what an IT professional receives that makes him a leader. It's what he gives.

Don Tennant

Don Tennant is editor in chief of Computerworld. Contact him at don_tennant@computerworld.com.

Special Report

2006 Premier 100 IT Leaders

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Copyright © 2005 IDG Communications, Inc.

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