Lead with inspiration

Leadership is one of those words that carry a lot of weight but can have surprisingly little substance. Many CEOs get called leaders when they are anything but. Many teams have designated leaders who merely manage. True leadership is like great art, readily recognized but not easily duplicated.

This issue of Computerworld (U.S.), which is devoted to IT leadership, shines a spotlight on our Premier 100 IT Leaders for 2002. They are outstanding people who are leading by example, innovating in the face of recession and shaping the future of our industry. Yet what they really do best through their stories and their ideas is inspire. To me, that ability is far more tangible than lofty business-book concepts about leadership.

Beyond what you see in this issue, we offer a quick quiz at Computerworld.com to find out if your own leadership style pegs you as a Diplomat, a Strategist or something else. You’ll find tons of useful advice from our Premier 100 members on everything from smart career steps to highly recommended leadership resources. And a “survival guide” showcases leading-edge thinking on negotiating with vendors, coping with training needs and keeping employee morale high during budget droughts.

For those who prefer to experience IT leadership firsthand, we’re hosting our third annual Premier 100 IT Leaders Conference on March 3-5, 2002, in Palm Desert, Calif. Many of this year’s honorees, past winners and IT executives will join forces there to talk strategy and tactics about infrastructure, integration, security, ROI and emerging technologies.

When it comes to inspiring would-be IT leaders and aspiring CIOs, however, the best advice tends to come straight from the source. “Develop your skills as a storyteller,” recommends Tom Murphy, CIO at Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. “There is no more powerful way of getting a message across than through an effectively told story.” (Amen to that!)

Or listen to David Hager, vice-president of network security and disaster recovery at OppenheimerFunds Distributor: “Exceptional leaders are those who can inspire, who can evoke skill, desire and passion within the people around them.”

Finally, consider what Craig Luigart, CIO at the U.S. Department of Education, has to say: “Never stop learning. You’ve hitched a ride on a discipline that changes every two to three years in ways none of us can imagine.”

What an inspiring thought for the launch of a new year.

Maryfran Johnson is editor in chief of Computerworld (U.S.). You can contact her atmaryfran_johnson@computerworld.com.