Book Review: The 11 Secrets of Highly Influential IT Leaders

The 11 Secrets of Highly Influential IT LeadersThe 11 Secrets of Highly Influential IT Leaders by Marc Schiller is a solid strategy for overcoming the central leadership issue plaguing many CIO’s and IT leaders. That is, how to transcend the functional role of running IT to become an influential business leader. Schiller shows real wisdom in sidestepping the debate over the relevance of IT choosing instead to offer a practical road map of 11 Secrets to the art and science of systematically building real business influence.

Schiller commits to keeping it simple and straight forward and he delivered. No long-winded or abstract leadership theories, just crisp ideas that get right to the point supported by tangible examples for what really works. Schiller’s decision to take this approach makes 11 Secrets a very manageable read for a business trip or a fall weekend read.

What surprised me most while reading The 11 Secrets of Highly Influential IT Leaders was the interesting insights offered by Marc Schiller which underpin the 11 Secrets. It seemed almost like leadership judo aimed at using your ‘opponents’ own momentum to your advantage. In the 11 Secrets that means not wasting your energy debating if IT matters, instead it is about learning what matters to your organization and using that to develop your influence. You could also think about it as playing the game not on IT’s terms but on the terms of your peers and senior executives.

For me the salient points for developing leadership influence were found in three of the 11 Secrets. First, the importance of developing business intimacy (Secret #3) which is more than just knowledge it is about connectedness and relationships as a way of building trust. Second, practicing the Japanese tradition of Nemawashi (Secret #7) to socialize your ideas with peers and executives in advance of presenting them, is like a force multiplier for building influence. And third, You Gotta Know The Game (Secret #8) by understanding and internalizing your business/profit model, your businesses operating model, and your competitive position in the market.

The eight other Secrets seemed more like the building blocks to influential leadership and the three Secrets noted above. Like Infrastructure Really Matters (Secret #1) and Three Communications Traps to Avoid (Secret #4). Sure these Secrets might seem obvious, but they are often overlooked as Schiller offers convincing insights into why you can’t be strategic unless you attend to these leadership fundamentals.

There were a few things I wanted The 11 Secrets of Highly Influential IT Leaders to address or at least give a nod to. One area I wanted Marc Schiller to spend some time on was the human dynamics affecting leadership which is often at the root of Schiller’s diagnosis of the influence gap. It is likely I gravitate to this because of having served several clients in industries that began their technology transformation later than others.

I also thought more attention should have been paid to the directional dynamics of influence building when it is focused laterally or down (outwardly) the organization chart. For me this additional attention would make several of the Secrets much more useful for those readers in sectors like healthcare and education where cultural norms can exert unusual power affecting IT influence.

Overall I found The 11 Secrets of Highly Influential IT Leaders to be one of the best sources of actionable ideas for CIO’s and other aspiring IT leaders. Schiller addresses the challenges faced by IT leaders without getting bogged down by choosing instead to offer practical advice and examples of how to overcome them.

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