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IT Leadership Alchemy

IT Leadership Alchemy

by Lou Russell, Jeff Feldman
IT Leadership Alchemy gives you a detailed, start-to-finish program for developing every personal and business skill you need to become a great technical leader. It contains easy-to-use techniques, templates, checklists, assessments, and simulations drawn from the world's most successful IT organizations; tools proven to help you improve in every aspect of


IT Leadership Alchemy gives you a detailed, start-to-finish program for developing every personal and business skill you need to become a great technical leader. It contains easy-to-use techniques, templates, checklists, assessments, and simulations drawn from the world's most successful IT organizations; tools proven to help you improve in every aspect of technical leadership, from staff development to strategy, customer focus, to project management.

Product Details

Prentice Hall
Publication date:
Yourdon Press Series
Product dimensions:
6.80(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.70(d)

Read an Excerpt


I wanted to write this book for many reasons. I have been employed in IT since 1979. I thought I'd died and gone to heaven when I got a highly paid ($13.5K) job as a programmer at AT&T. I had started college as a math major because I liked it. I eventually switched to Computer Science because it seemed like you could make money at it, it was new, and, ironically, I didn't want to teach. Thanks to my Mom for modeling the value of teaching that I so cherish now.

In one way I felt I belonged with IT people; my father is a highly analytical and technical microwave engineer by schooling. Thanks, Dad, for teaching me to understand and translate technical people's brilliance. In another way, spending the rest of my life with people who rarely went outside and who read compiler books for fun over the summer scared me. I thought about getting out of this career decision many times along the way.

I share this because it illustrates why leadership is so critical to the future of IT. The seemingly magic technology truly does make or break a company's ability to compete in the present market. Unfortunately, business people do not want to be around IT people (nerds). IT people tend to be weaker at people skills, so this reinforcing cycle of miscommunication and avoidance spawns insufficient technology solutions that prevent the business from competing. The cycle of miscommunication, blame, and frustration is omnipresent in most IT organizations today.

IT organizations are over equipped to deal with the technical issues but ill equipped to deal with the people issues. IT is an immature discipline; the technology has changed but the processes and behaviors of IT have not changed in 25 years. It is time for that change. The business needs IT to survive. IT needs to learn to lead through collaboration with the business to enable this survival. To do this, IT must exhibit strong leadership within its own troops. Unfortunately, many of the people who could play this role were promoted because of their technical, not their people, skills.

The fallout is evident everywhere you look—sick companies, depressed people, lost markets, and drifting families. The cost of IT staying here is too high for our world. My daughters, Kelly, Kristin, and Katherine, who have patiently supported my work, deserve a better future. They know that technology is a tool, not a religion. They know, and I hope will not forget as they grow up, that people are what matter.

As Ed Yourdon notes in his book Byte Wars, the events of 9/11 have created a new playing field for everyone, especially technologists. Thanks to Ed for inviting us to help with this transition with this book.

I believe that there are IT people who know that there is a big problem with IT leadership. They know that they have to grow a new kind of IT, with a new set of leadership competencies in addition to the obvious technical ones. This book is based on leadership competencies established by an elite group of people. Thank you for your brainpower and passion. Thanks to Susan Mosey and the Advisory Board: Christine Trum, Martha Heinrick, Jeff Clancy, Lisa Hoisl, Debra Limm Grommons, Marty Morrow, Susan Fehl, Chuck Geigner, Michael Ayers, and Naomi Karten.

Are you ready to grow your own leadership competencies and encourage the same in the people that work with you? This book is only a starting point. Change will require a stubbornness and determination that leadership matters. Thank you for this in advance. The truly special, gifted CIOs, like Jane Neiderberger of Anthem who wrote the Foreword, know this. That's why they are different and successful. Thanks, Jane, for proving that there is such a thing as an IT leader.

Jeff Feldman, my co-author, is an amazing thinker, with a deep desire to help people. He has been such a joy to work with, and I want to thank his wife, Kristin, for loaning him to me. My husband, Doug Martin, who is the leader of three companies, has helped me see the complexity of leading highly technical people. He is one of those rare IT people who is both a brilliant technologist and an advocate of people. He is also a realist, so he keeps my thoughts from getting too academic and impractical. Thanks for being my partner and rock. Finally, thanks to Vija, Margie, and Carol at Russell Martin & Associates who are the glue that allows me to do what I love.

People and relationships make technology useful. This is the primary message I hope you get from this book. The work you do is extremely important, so take care of yourself. And hug your kids. Along that line, I promised Jon Tripp and Amanda Huffine that I would put their names in this book. Here you go, little friends!

Lou Russell

For me, this project began long before we ever started talking about this book. In August of 2000, Susan Mosey from Russell Martin called to invite me to take part in the design of a new IT leadership development initiative called iLeadership. The vision for this project was grand and far-reaching and I was excited by the opportunity. Several months and a lot of phone calling, emailing, dreaming, designing, and redesigning later, we had the framework for what we felt was an exceptional approach to developing IT leaders. We had built a program with wings but for a variety of reasons, it was not yet time to fly. iLeadership still exists—the message behind the program was too important to lay dormant—it has now simply taken a different shape.

With the manuscript fully written now and ready to go to press, I must say how proud I am to have had a hand in creating this work. In the book, we talk about how we as leaders need to hold a guiding vision. My vision has always been a simple one: to make the world a better place. I've been accused of being an idealist, and perhaps I am, but I truly believe that each of us holds the power to influence the world in a more positive direction. This work is one small attempt on my part to do just that. By strengthening the capacity for leadership within organizations doing good and important work, in both large and small ways we make the world a better place—for our customers, our employees, for anyone touched by the products and services we provide, and ultimately for ourselves. My hope here is to be an enabler, to enable the growth and fulfill the potential of the authentic leader residing within each of us. This is what I hope I've brought to this work and what I hope you'll take from it.

My contributions to this effort are built upon a foundation of support from many teachers, partners, and loved ones. I have much to be thankful for and many to be thankful to.

To Kristin, for her love, bottomless flexibility, endless understanding, and gentle encouragement.

To my parents, for nurturing the potential they recognized in me and guiding the first steps along the path of this journey.

To the colleagues I've been fortunate enough to partner with through the years, each of whom has directly or indirectly added value and insight to this work: Karl, Bruce, Chris, Corky, and so many others.

A special thanks to Lou for her dreams and vision, support and encouragement, confidence and trust, sense of humor and flexibility, grace and style. I'd write again with you anytime!

Special thanks also to the Russell Martin team who supported this project in so many ways behind the scenes—Carol, Margie, Vija, and to Susan who began this leadership journey with us.

And thanks to you, the reader, for your willingness to explore our approach and engage our ideas. We hope you find a piece of what you seek among these pages.

Jeff Feldman

Meet the Author

LOU RUSSELL is CEO of Russell Martin & Associates, a consulting and training company focused on improving planning, process, and performance in IT organizations. She has consulted with Fortune 1000 companies including 3M, Ameritech, CINergy, Commonwealth Edison, Eli Lilly, Morgan Stanley, Pearson, and Nike, and with colleges such as Texas A&M. Her books include The Accelerated Learning Fieldbook and Project Managing for Trainers.

JEFF FELDMAN is a trainer, speaker, and coach specializing in personal development and human interaction training. His company, Eagle's View Enterprises, serves corporate clients including Johnson & Johnson, General Mills, 3M, Lucent Technologies, Principal Financial, and BASF as well as universities and public agencies throughout the U.S.

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