founder of naked leader

Leadership from a nostalgic perspective – or is it?

Naked Leader Week – 219 (w/c Monday 6 August 2007)

Leadership from a nostalgic perspective – or is it?

Nine years ago today, I published my first ever column on a subject that could be termed as “leadership” (as opposed to technology) in Computer Weekly.

I reproduce it here, as the issues seem as relevant today, and can be applied across a number of different departments in companies. If any of these apply to you, then please answer the last question – not for me, rather for you and your people.

With love



Our Ultimate Challenge – from Computer Weekly Thursday 6th August 1998

If our industry has tears, it should prepare to shed them now. We knew that people retention and skill shortages were a growing problem – few could have predicted the devastating effect it would have on business strategy, the economy and our country.

Computer Weekly’s Banner Research survey has revealed that over one in five organisations has had to change its I.T. strategy to match available skills. We are in a situation where the skills of our people are determining what we can achieve and the projects we can deliver like boarding a ship for Calais and ending up in the Isle of Wight because the captain couldn’t read the charts. This is a crisis, which calls for leadership, focus and action.

I suppose we should have seen it coming, and in many ways we are simply reaping what we have sown in the past when we neglected to invest in our people. It is easy to blame the head-hunters and contract markets – but that is not the whole story – the 1980s’ fad for Business Process Re-engineering destroyed morale and trust.

Any IT Director not working on staff retention is risking the whole future of their department.

Staff turnover can be reduced – it has been done in several organisations. By investing in people’s development and transforming departments to establish a want to work attitude. By outsourcing the “noise” on a selective basis and focusing permanent staff on strategic, new technology projects.

Establish a learning culture where people’s value is based on their willingness and ability to learn new skills and take on new challenges rather than on being the sole custodian of one or two key pieces of information.

Share the position with your business customers, do the unusual to tie your staff in, and above all never give up.

As an industry we need to revisit, sanitise and make professional the whole staff procurement process. We must also look hard at our education priorities and funding, at bringing more people in from outside the industry, and in attracting skills from outside the U.K., as other countries are actively doing.

If we allow our future business growth to be constrained by the availability of IT skills we will once again be blamed for the fact that business cannot do what it wants and needs to do.  Investment in IT will be seen as a waste of money.

It is no good blaming “circumstances” or events outside of our control – our future, whether IT becomes a major enabler of positive change or drifts into being little more than a necessary evil, is up to all of us.

It is time to restore pride in our industry and our people, to liberate their aspirations and potential, and to lead them towards a compelling destiny.

Our industry is at its lowest point yet – we must all play a part in restoring our business, economic and strategic role. This is the ultimate challenge for our industry; it is up to all of us to rise to that challenge – what are you, personally, going to do?



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