A few weeks ago, I was interviewed by an MBA student for a term paper about leadership.  I was a bit surprised by the initial request.  As a "matrix manager" at IBM, with no direct reports nor budget control, I don't really think of myself as "leading" anything...more like requesting and influencing.  Reading the finished report gave me a different perspective on what a "leader" is, helping me see my role from that perspective much more clearly than ever before.

One of the areas covered in the report was weaknesses, and I confessed that I still need to work on tolerance.  I don't always suffer disagreement gladly, especially when it is POV and not fact-based.  I believe this has lead to some hesitancy of readers on edbrill.com to offer critical views, because there are times when I turn the torpedoes on points that could be challenged with a squirt gun.  I've worked on changing that, but it's not always easy for me -- especially because I've been told often that the (much larger) silent readership here takes any silence on my own part as consent or agreement.  There are also issues where both I and the poster know more than can be said publicly, which ends up making us both look petty.  Genuine, reasoned debate, though, has a place here and elsewhere, and I'm getting better at learning that.

One person who has taught me a lot about that in the last 12-18 months is Charles Robinson.  While for his sake, I'm pleased to learn that he is moving on to a new job, I am going to miss having a default devil's advocate for many of the topics discussed here.  Charles has played a valuable community role of asking hard questions and questioning opinions, and has done so while still building tighter connections into the community.  Not everybody likes his opinions or style...but that's true for almost every one of us who spends any amount of time writing online.

As he writes in his "moving on" entry, Charles ended up in a dead-end job, and for whatever reason, couldn't get his management to get him out of it.  So he's leaving for different work.  Most of us can relate to this.  What seems like a very long time ago, I left US Robotics for a company called Lotus because, despite phenomenal growth going on at US Robotics, they were doing very little promoting from within.  Most new job reqs were filled from the outside, likely because it meant training only one person, rather than training someone promoted as well as their replacement.  The day I resigned, I received phone calls from seven vice-presidents or directors offering me different jobs within USR.  I had been looking for something new to do there for months, with no bites.  So, when I resigned, I had already made my decision, as it sounds Charles had done in his case (after giving his employer similar chances).

Charles will probably wonder why I've put this much attention into his job transition.  The answer is simple admiration for a guy who has been willing to challenge or dissent in public, has the conviction to follow through words with actions, and understand when to put professional interaction aside in favor of developing relationships.  Though I'm sure he won't fade away, even though he won't be working with Notes in his new job, his presence in our community will be missed.

Post a Comment