Greeted with high fives and smiles, our Think IT members gathered for the largest Think IT event to date. The energy in the room was like no other as our esteemed panelists shared insights on leadership. A huge thank you to our panelists; Paula Winkler, Chief Operating Officer at The Disruptive Element; Keith Tanski, Chief Technology Officer at Optum; Kim Skanson, President at Cargill Business Services; Marc Kermisch, Executive Vice President & Chief Information Officer at Bluestem Brands, Inc.; and Brett Brunick, Chief Information Officer at TCF Bank. Thank you to Tom Butterfield and TCF Bank for hosting our boisterous group!

Below you will find an overview of the questions asked and a summary of what was discussed.

What are the commonalities between successful leaders? 

There are many commonalities between successful leaders. A few that we touched on included consistency, humility, and vulnerability. As a leader, it is important to be consistent in how you show up every day. You do not want your employees to wonder what version of you will show up in the workplace. Leaders that own who they are, mistakes included, are more successful.

How do you gain respect as a leader? 

Trust and respect are not simply handed to you – it’s something you must earn. As leaders, we cast a shadow, that matters. People are watching you and looking up to you every moment of every day. It may take a while but here are a few things our panelists mentioned to gain respect; know your role, take ownership of mistakes, have your teams back, and set the tone from the start.

Leading from the front – or leading from the rear? 

It’s truly situational and when you first step into a leadership position, it’s essential to guide your team but also get to the point where they can be successful without you holding their hand. Too often, new leaders may lead from the front and never give that up, or immediately lead from the back. When you truly lead, you have one foot behind but can hop in front when needed. 

Leaders, are they born or made? 

The majority of our panelists believed that it’s a little bit of both. Again, and again, people get hung up on the idea of their title. Some may receive a title and completely change their attitude. Remember, you we’re given the fancy “title” because of who you were, your actions, and your effect on others before you had it. Don’t change your work ethic because your business card says something different. For those of you that may not have the fancy title, remind yourself that just because you are not in a leadership position doesn’t mean you’re not a great leader. What is the legacy you want to leave?

What was your biggest mistake as a leader? 

There is so much that we can learn from others. Everyone makes mistakes, but it’s how we learn from those mistakes that make us who we are. Some lessons learned that are panelists shared included; stressing the importance of being who you are, do not get caught up in the work and lose yourself. You need to be aware of your audience, share the right information, at the right time, with the right people, and in the right way.  At the same time, you need to know when you passion in overcoming, and when is the right time to shut your mouth. 

As John F. Kennedy said, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” There is no end to a leadership journey. A huge thank you to our panelists! Your willingness to give back to the IT community is what makes Think IT so successful. If you were unable to attend, you can view the slide deck, here.