Over the past decade as a CIO, I’ve had successes and failures. I’ve learned about leadership in a crisis , how to resolve disputes, and how to serve my customers/employees/superiors . As I watch the first few days of the Obama administration, I have a great deal of respect for the initial activity, as seen through the lens of my own leadership experience. Here are five reasons I have great optimism for the new administration:
1. Smart People – Obama is surrounding himself with smart people, regardless of party affiliation or ideology. In my experience, A-level leaders surround themselves with A-level staff, since they are not intimidated by people who are smarter or more experienced. However, B-level leaders surround themselves with C-level staff who do not question the ideas and actions of their leader, resulting in sycophants rather than a strong leadership team. Of course, as we learned from Jimmy Carter’s presidency (he’s been a great post-president), the smartest people are not always the most successful people, but I have great faith in the new team!
2. Listening – As I’ve described in my blog about leading change , the most important part of Kotter’s principles is to build a guiding coalition. By engaging the stakeholders and listening to their priorities for change, Obama has created powerful grass roots momentum.
3. Doing the right thing – A wise person once said “When one bases his life on principle, 99 percent of his decisions are already made.” Should we drill for oil in the Arctic? Should government decide what therapeutic options doctors and their female patients can talk about? Should government decide science policy based on religious beliefs? The answers to these questions should be clear if we objectively ask ourselves what seems like the right thing to do based on the best objective evidence. The Obama administration is doing that.
4. Let the ideas flow – The web “democratizes data”. Ideas need to flow freely and as country we need to come to consensus about our priorities based on open and transparent communications. The Obama team, with the able assistance of Blue State Digital and other technology partners, has created Change.gov and Whitehouse.gov to reduce information silos.
5. Embrace technology – Obama is the first president to have a computer on his desk. Obama will keep his Blackberry. The communication systems in the Whitehouse will be upgraded to Web 2.0 technologies. Working with better technology will result in better,faster decisions and more enlightened management.
Will the Obama administration be perfect? No. Will the change management ahead be easy? No. Will we get to the right decisions faster and regain the respect of the world. Absolutely.
John Halamka is the CIO at Beth Israel Deconess Medical Center and the author of the popular Life as a Healthcare CIO blog, where he writes about technology, the business of healthcare and the issues he faces as the leader of the IT department of a major hospital system. He is a frequent contributor to THCB.