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What's Next

| January 28, 2020

by Jim Bruce

What’s Next?

[Today’s Tuesday Reading is from Jim Bruce, Senior Fellow and Executive Coach at MOR Associates.  He previously was Professor of Electrical Engineering, and Vice President for Information Systems and CIO at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA.]

Thank you, Brian for your kind words in last week’s Tuesday Reading.1 I remember well your showing up in my MIT office in the mid-1990s. A few years earlier, MIT had embarked on a major project to reengineer its administrative systems, not just the information technology for these systems but also the underlying way work was structured and done. You had been engaged by MIT’s Human Resources Office to help them fulfill their training and development role in this larger endeavor.
And, you didn’t just come over to my office once. You kept coming back and became what would now be called my executive coach. And, it didn’t stop there. You became involved with my senior leadership team as well, coaching individuals on the team as well as the team itself.
As time advanced, Brian began to talk about the overall lack of real leadership skills not only in IT but more broadly across the entire university. This led him, in conjunction with colleagues at MIT, to establish Leader to Leader, a campus-wide program introducing participants to a wide variety of leadership models, practices and skills. This program continues today.
In 2003, as I began to think about my retirement from MIT, Brian began to talk about bringing what he had been doing in support of my organization as well as L2L together in the form of a set of IT Leadership workshops. And, we wondered whether IT organizations at other universities might be interested.
Not wanting to let a good idea go to waste, after I retired from MIT early in 2004 the two of us began to talk with other CIOs to see if they might have any interest in having their senior leadership staff members participate in the first offering of what is now known as the MOR Leaders Program. Four universities – The University of Chicago (where Greg Jackson was CIO), Duke University (Tracy Futhey), Pennsylvania State University (Gary Augustine), and Stanford University (Bill Clebsch) – said “yes,” and the first program was off and running in the Fall of 2004.
Clearly there was, and still is, a continuing need to develop leaders as evidenced by the continuous year over year growth in the MOR programs.
The Tuesday Readings grew out of my desire to share what I was learning through my reading on leadership subjects. The first Tuesday Reading, “Knowing How to Work a Crowd,”2 was one short sentence and a reference to an on-line article that I had found which I thought would be helpful to the current program participants. Over the years more and more of the Tuesday Readings have taken the form of essays with references pulling together concepts about an important idea or a practice relating to leadership. Today, on a typical Tuesday some 4,400 individuals receive the Tuesday Reading directly and perhaps 2,000 or so receive a copy of the reading forwarded to them by their manager, a colleague, or a friend.
A few years ago, as I reached my late seventies, I began to reduce my role in the Leaders Program, first stepping away from participation in workshops, then from coaching program participants, and now from being the principal author of the Tuesday Readings. I still coach, primarily individuals considering CIO opportunities. As Brian indicated, I will be a monthly contributor to the Tuesday Readings. The “good Lord willing,” my overall contributions are not over, just becoming more directed.
I really appreciated Brian’s quotes from Warren Bennis’ essay The Seven Ages of the Leader.3 As I reflect on Bennis’ comment about this stage – “Mentoring is one of the great joys of a mature career, the professional equivalent of having grandchildren. It is at this time that the drive to prepare the next generation for leadership becomes a palpable ache.” – I find that I’m already trying on my “Sage’s” robe. It doesn’t feel comfortable yet. I’m too much a doer, just wanting to get it done now. However, over time with a little stretching here, some adjustments there, I’m sure that the robe will be just fine.
Who would have thought that a little boy growing up in a really small farming town in East Texas with a relatively under-educated family eight decades ago would have been privileged to travel the journey I have traveled. And, I don’t see myself as “done” yet.
Thank you, Brian and colleagues at MOR and MOR Leaders Program participants as well as others who regularly read the Tuesday Readings, for all you have contributed to me and for what we have learned together.
Now, do make your week a great one for yourself, for your team, and for your colleagues. You’ll hear from me in a few weeks when I plan to write again on overcoming the fear of being seen as an imposter.
.  .  .  .     jim
1.   Brian McDonald, Transitioning as a Leader — Jim Bruce’s Next Stage, MOR Tuesday Readings, January 21, 2020.
2.   Jim Bruce, Knowing How to Work a Crowd, Darwin Magazine (publication no longer exists).
3.   Warren Bennis, The Seven Stages of a Leader, Harvard Business Review, January 2004.