ComputerWorld Canada’s IT Leadership Awards: Success on stage
(The following is adapted from my opening remarks at the IT Leadership Awards.)
I had to break the bad news right away: George Smitherman did not win this leadership race either.

Then again, neither did Rob Ford, so there were plenty of surprises as we hosted the first-ever ComputerWorld Canada IT Leadership Awards on Tuesday night. Believe it or not, we did not deliberately host the event so close to voting day. Yet it was interesting, over the last couple of weeks, to see how the topic of leadership became such a part of the national conversation, in cities from Toronto, to Calgary and everywhere in between.

As always, there seemed to be a disproportionate focus on personality over policy. We would hear about the candidates who were pragmatists, and those who were populist. More often, we would hear about which candidates were able to successfully tap into the emotions – disappointment, anger, or even sometimes hope – of everyday citizens. This always seems to happen in politics.

In enterprise IT, however, I find the reverse is often true. If a company gives much thought to its IT leaders at all, their judgment seems based solely on their professional track record, their experience, their knowledge of a certain technology or their familiarity with specific vertical industries. It as though personality doesn’t exist as a factor, even when we know that being an effective communicator and a builder of consensus among disparate stakeholders is key to any IT project success.

I’m not sure why it is that organizations do this, but perhaps it’s because capturing that unknowable quality that distinguishes someone from a mere tactician to a leader is such a challenge. It was not, however, a challenge we at ComputerWorld Canada were willing to ignore.

In fact, you could argue that ComputerWorld Canada’s reason for being is to respond, again and again, to that challenge. Last night was our birthday party, where we celebrated 25 years of profiling not only the products and services that change our culture – anyone can do that – but the Canadians who make those products and services relevant here. More importantly, we try to encourage and nurture leadership qualities in everything that we do. This is true of the articles we publish, of course. It’s also true of the more than 1,000 clips we have in our video library, the largest collection of its kind in the country. It’s true of our recently-launched online education platform, The awards were the latest, and in some ways most rewarding manifestation.

I think if you talked to our staff that night, you would have seen a look of palpable relief on their faces, because what we did was wildly ambitious from the start. Instead of coming up with one simple IT leader of the year category, we came up with half a dozen, spanning every area we could imagine. Then we decided to reach out to the best and brightest people we knew in Canadian IT to be judges, even though we knew they are already up to their eyeballs in other activities. And finally, we decided to reach out to all those great IT industry associations – CIOCAN, ITAC, CIPS, CATA WIT, ICTC – and bring them on a single stage.

The best part? They all showed up, along with the finalists, the winners, their coworkers and friends. Once again, we owe our success to our audience. I can’t think of a better way to salute ComputerWorld Canada’s 25th anniversary than that.

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