Great IT Leaders Must Be Great Connectors

By Charles Araujo

Beginning in the 1400s, the Medici family of Florence began their rise to power and the formation of a financial, political and religious dynasty that would span almost 300 years. The family was the dominant force in Florence, thanks in part to its banking, and enjoyed significant influence throughout Italy and many parts of Europe throughout much of this time. The House of Medici is most widely remembered for its significant patronage of the arts, particularly during the early years of their reign. As a result of this patronage, Florence became a hotbed of artistic expression as painters, sculptors, philosophers, poets and scientists flocked there to enjoy the patronage of the Medici family.

As artists and scientists from these wildly different disciplines interacted and shared ideas, an explosion of creativity occurred. So much so, in fact, that many people consider the Medici’s patronage as one of the catalysts that launched the Renaissance. This was the basis of Frans Johansson’s book, The Medici Effect. The idea that innovation and creativity occurs when people with differing ideas and points of view are brought together and simply allowed to interact and share their experiences, knowledge and ideas. I believe that, in many ways, the patriarchs of the Medici family were the first and perhaps ultimate connectors—a term made popular by Malcolm Gladwell in his book, The Tipping Point. And in being so, the Medici were also a model for all Digital Renaissance Men and Women of our modern time.

All Renaissance Men and Women Are Connectors

In the days before LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, “social networking” had a very different meaning. And had you looked it up in a printed dictionary (trust me, you used to own one), you would have found Jimmy Moore’s picture next to the phrase.

In a past life, I served for a time as the president of The Arts Council of Temecula Valley, which was sort of like an arts commission for my then-community of about 150,000 people. As president, I attended a lot of city and political functions. And Jimmy Moore could always be found at these events.  The husband of one of the city’s first councilwomen, Jimmy knew everyone in Temecula Valley. But he didn’t use his network for his own gain. He used to help everyone else. He was a connector.

Every time my wife and I showed up at an event, Jimmy would be there, almost as if he had been waiting for us. “Charlie, there’s someone you should meet,” he would tell me. “He’s in the computer business, too.” Or “Charlie, you need to talk to Sam—he might love wine more than you do.” Or “Charlie, I’d like to introduce you to Sharon. Her kids attend the same school as yours and she has some strong ideas about arts in the school.”

Jimmy seemed to have mastered the nuances of my life, and was always on the lookout for someone that he could connect me to, someone who shared an interest or affinity of mine. For me, knowing that Jimmy would be attending an event made that it both less socially difficult and a million times more enjoyable. I was always assured that I would have someone wonderful to meet who I would have something in common with. Jimmy would make sure of it.

And, not surprisingly, those “chance meetings” often led to some exciting and unexpected opportunities.

The Need for Innovation Catalysts

This is the fifth article in a six-part series titled “What It Means to be a Digital Renaissance Man.” In the series, I am exploring the traits that will embody Digital Renaissance Man and Woman. One of the traits of these modern digital leaders will be prolific connecting. These Digital Renaissance Men and Women will be connectors of people, connectors of ideas, and connectors of questions. As our world becomes ever more complex and intertwined, there will be times when there are no easy answers. And the solutions to these complex problems can be found by exploring unexpected combinations of different disciplines.

As the world seeks this type of innovation, it will be the Digital Renaissance Men and Women who will help create the modern-day, and potentially virtual, Florences of our time. They will bring together people from different backgrounds, different disciplines and different world views—people who ostensibly have nothing in common. But like Jimmy Moore, these digital connectors will find the common bonds to enable professionals with wildly different backgrounds to feed off each other and find the buried answers to these complex problems.

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