Servant Leadership, Brand and Vision and my Leadership Strategy

Ron Smith, Executive Director of IT, CTO & CISO, Florida State College at Jacksonville
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Ron Smith, Executive Director of IT, CTO & CISO, Florida State College at Jacksonville

Ron Smith, Executive Director of IT, CTO & CISO, Florida State College at Jacksonville

I believe in servant leadership and it has served me well. (Pun intended) I work to serve my leaders. I prefer to handle my responsibilities within my team and include my peers and superiors for informational purposes or when I need resources only they can grant. I constantly seek ways I can assist my superiors in their responsibilities with the intent to eventually take on those responsibilities permanently. I believe the organization pays for my experience and knowledge and that I should be clear in my viewpoints to my leadership, even when it may come as unwelcome news. My job is to not only protect those below me but also those above me and the institution as a whole.

With my staff, I expect the same. Their responsibility is to take portions of my responsibilities and work to replace me as I transition into new things, providing counsel and making sure the resources are there for my staff. When my staff feels that they do not need me and are self-sufficient in managing these responsibilities, I consider that a success.

Brand is important to me and often looked over in IT departments. Every organization has its brand. It is displayed on billboards, commercials, and employee shirts. The organization’s brand shapes department brands and also individual employee brands. Employees that have worked for the same organization for decades can relate that public perception of their personal brands have swayed drastically, based on the public perception of the organization as a whole. Being a cutting-edge IT department has helped our employees’ brand within the local market. However, brands are a two-way streetand also go the other way. Employees build brand into their departments and departments build brand into their organization. An employee that continually fails at vital requirements can affect the brand of the institution as a whole. Brand management is not only important for the perception of the organization as a whole but also important for each department and employee. We must be vigilant in shaping our employees professionally and helping them not just improve their brand but to also recognize the importance of it in its reflection on the department and organization.

I would hope that my brand is seen as a servant leader at work, home and in the community. I strive to be the one that hard workers want to work for, one that unproductive and toxic employees want to avoid, fair to employees and to other departments and those we do business with. I hope that that my brand is perceived as a person who expects excellence but understands innovation and growth require mistakes. While some would point out that my solutions are often expensive, I would hope that most perceive me as one who believes if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing right.Building it right is cheaper than attempting to fix it later. I was born with a sense of adventure and love to dive down new rabbit holes. People that know me know that status quo is not a good reason for anything and that not being worse than others is not an achievement. We must constantly question where we are at, if we’re still taking the appropriate steps, or is there a better, more efficient and effective, or more cost effective ways to do things.

 Every IT Department must serve as a consultant, arbiter, and knowledge leader internally and throughout the organization 

Vision is much like brand. The organization sets a vision affecting departmental and individual employee visions and can often times affect the vision of our customers, partners and vendors. It is easy to neglect sharing these visions with those that need to see them. It’s important to make sure employees know where we are headed, what our needs are, and how they can assist us in reaching our destinations. We must be aware that vision also goes the other direction. Customer needs and vendor direction often shapes the employees’ individual visions that allow them to contribute back to the departmental vision which should be shared with the organization as a whole. We must present the clearest view of the current vision, provide the appropriate resources, expect success, mentor where neededand recognize those achievements.

We must also bear in mind that while this Hegelian Dialectic of Brand and Vision is transpiring, that thesis does not merely meet an antithesis, lead to the need for synthesis and the process ends. Every end creates a new state that will have new challenges and we will need to provide new answers. We must also avoid the trap of failure avoidance and strive for excellence. This is the continual spiral staircase that every IT department travels if they are to continually improve and provide value to their institution.

Every IT department must serve as a consultant, arbiter and knowledge leader internally and throughout the organization. It must teach its employees customer service, leadership skills, win-win negotiation, setting and committing to accomplishable goals. The department must be able to demonstrate that it accomplished what it said it would do and manage conflicting priorities with integrity. Most of all, it needs to be able to communicate clearly.

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