Level 5 Leader Treadwell proved herself to the team through hard work, humility and a yearning for simplicity. Both Vardon and Treadwell worked 70 to 80 hours a week throughout the five-year e-business transition. During this time, Treadwell earned the reputation of a highly motivated, tough negotiator who holds people accountable, and a brilliant strategist who is good at identifying the right people. "Anyone who achieves anything at her level in the public sector must have a special set of qualities," says Marianne Broadbent, a senior vice president at Gartner Inc. "In Treadwell's case, those qualities encompass being inclusive, listening, showing respect but being willing to make decisions, and really lead. She knows what she doesn't know and doesn't hesitate to ask. And that plays to the advantage of a CIO who might not have a strong technical background. Treadwell challenged people to clarify things and make them simple, reducing the mystique and complexity about how they spoke about IT-enabled initiatives."
According to Broadbent, both Treadwell and Vardon are what author Jim Collins refers to as "Level 5" leaders, people who combine humility with absolute determination and perseverance.
Treadwell confesses that her technical naïveté made the e-business job appear more approachable at first. In hindsight, had she known the level of complexity involved, she might have been more worried.
Vardon agrees. "Neither of us knew at the start how big this was going to be, which was probably just as well. But we always had a very clear view of our objective. Back then, e-business was just a thought. We didn't know quite what it involved and neither did the rest of the world. We had a motto: 'Fake it till you make it.' Our people had to learn on the job, and today, a number of Centrelink staff are considered experts in government e-business."
* * *
Post script: Treadwell recently accepted a new position as CIO of the Victorian government, which she starts on May 3. "Now that we've made a success at Centrelink, I want to work across organizations to create something special for customers and government," she says. "And yes, that butcher's paper is coming with me."
Lauraine Sayers is a freelance IT writer and editor. She is based in North Geelong, Victoria, Australia.