IT needs more leaders who possess the necessary breadth of knowledge and experience to help organizations deal with the business challenges of today.
The Universality of People and Service
When Atkinson was telling me the story of his journey, I was amazed at the vast diversity of the jobs and careers that he had pursued. After all, from a career perspective what could be further apart from each other than digging tunnels, working in a supermarket, working at a bank, working for a can producer, being a musician and working in IT at a research lab. Did these gigs have anything in common?
Atkinson’s answer surprised me.
"Every job I had basically came down to the same thing: people and being of service," he told me. "When I was a musician, every time I stepped on stage, I saw my job as serving my audience. In the labs, my job was to help the scientists do amazing research. At the bank, my job was to help the customers meet their financial needs."
In every position he held, he saw a consistency in his mission. The manner in which he served his customer may have been different, but the purpose and focus was universal. At the same time, however, it was the diversity of these experiences that have given Atkinson the ability to see things differently today as our world changes.
His time at the supermarket helped him understand how to design business models around the customer.
His time digging tunnels helped him understand the importance of trusting your teammates—even with your life.
His time working with the can company helped him understand how to deal with unpredictable situations.
His time working as a musician taught him how collaborate and improvise with others in real time.
In fact, it is the very diversity of Roy’s career that makes him a model of the future digital leader. The leaders that we will require in our digital future will not be—and cannot be—one-dimensional professionals who have spent their entire career in only one place, doing only one thing. Not very long ago, the situation was the exact opposite. What we most desired was people with deep expertise in a single domain. But today, that singularity of depth is like a small boat anchor tied around your neck.
Instead, what we require are new Digital Renaissance Leaders who have a breadth of knowledge and experience to help us deal with the challenges—both known and unknown—that we are facing today.
The Digital Renaissance Leader
This is the initial article of a new six-part series on what it will take to become a Renaissance man (or woman) in the digital age. In some ways, it does not look all that different from the likes of da Vinci and Michelangelo. We need leaders that are equal parts science and art, equal parts humanity and technology, and equal parts explorer and builder. It is a complex time and we need leaders with diverse and complex experiences to lead us through it.
Over the next few months, my new series will explore the five characteristics of this new Digital Renaissance Leader, which, by the way, applies to both IT and business professionals equally.
The Digital Renaissance Leader will be defined by his or her:
- Eagerness to learn
- Emotional awareness
These five traits will be the glue that will allow our digital leaders of the future to explore and connect different disciplines together to find the solutions that others will miss, solutions that we will desperately need in our complex world. It will be up to you to decide if you are ready to join the ranks of greats like da Vinci and Michelangelo. I hope you are.
About the Author
Charles Araujo is a recovering consultant and accidental author of the book, The Quantum Age of IT: Why Everything You Know About IT is About to Change. He is an internationally recognized authority on IT Leadership and liberally shares his message of hope about the future of IT and what it means for all of us. He is the founder and CEO of the IT Transformation Institute and serves on the boards of itSMF USA and the Executive Next Practices Institute. You can follow him at @charlesaraujo.
Editor's note: This is the first installment of a six-part article series titled "What It Means to be a Digital Renaissance Man." To read Araujo's previous CIO Insight article, "The Future Belongs to the Dynamic Organization," click here.