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Of Leadership, iPads, and Community

| May 12, 2020

by Jim Dezieck

[Today’s Tuesday Reading is from Jim Dezieck, MOR Associates Leadership Coach and Henry Gabriel, Associate Director of Finance, University Information Technology Services at Indiana University. They may be reached at [email protected] or [email protected].]

The photograph above answers the question: ‘how do we measure value?’ The joyful smile of a newly celebrated centenarian connecting from her nursing home room to her family via a donated Indiana University (IU) iPad defines value better than any balance sheet. The underlying story of how these iPads made their way from IU to area needy nursing homes includes a leadership journey by IU IT Associate Director of Finance Henry Gabriel. A member of this year’s IU MOR leadership cohort, Henry’s efforts drew from each of the three elements of MOR leadership – mindset, skillset and toolset – to catalyze this effort. Let’s hear from Henry:

In mid-March, my wife sent me an article about people dying alone in Italy. It mentioned a group that was collecting and distributing tablets to hospitals and assisted living facilities to help families stay in touch. Realizing this pandemic would soon be impacting our own communities, I wondered if we could do something similar here.

My first thought was that I work at a place that might have unused iPads collecting dust.  We also have the culture, values, and some of the best IT services and device management personnel in Indiana.  Who better to be able to figure out the necessary steps to collect, test, and prepare them for redeployment?

I had just attended the Leading Change and Exercising Influence session IU’s MOR Leaders Program and had learned about some really good tools to use.  Due to competing priorities, the idea didn’t initially gain traction. However, it quickly took off after a few weeks when we began to involve others in earnest.  Special thanks to MOR alums Cathy O’Bryan, Doug Mayo, and Joe Husk and his team.  Efforts culminated in spending half a day distributing the iPads to area nursing homes and IU Health – of course with mask, gloves, plenty of hand sanitizer, and social distancing.  


Reflecting on this project, two things kept me going throughout it: 1) Focusing on the desired future state of connecting isolated patients and seniors to their loved ones and 2) believing in the meaningful impact of this project during this difficult time.

We hear about the importance of leading from anywhere, and I took that to heart. I’m not a director or AVP, I work in the finance office, and my background is in accounting and auditing. However, I saw an opportunity for us as an IT organization to help serve the community around us during this pandemic.

I felt the risk in stepping out, that feeling in your stomach when you want to stop, yet you want to continue because you know you will grow.  I am thankful MOR Associates is clear that leading new initiatives and change comes with real risk. Keeping the future state and potential positive impact in focus helped me keep putting one foot in front of the other.


As an organization we were focusing our efforts on navigating through this crisis and serving the IU community—switching to virtual instruction, working remotely, Zoom, making difficult decisions, managing in uncertainty, and so on. For these good reasons, this was not a priority. Getting this done required weeks of persistence in kindling conversations, flexibility in adjusting my approach, influencing others, listening and soliciting feedback, being patient, and using social awareness to recognize the challenges others were facing.


Finding success also required looking in my leadership toolbox that I’ve been adding to during the MOR Leaders Program.

Growing up, my family drove used cars because that was what we could afford. When our cars needed maintenance or broke down, my dad and I would work on them. The importance of having the right tools and knowing how to use them was the difference between having a working car or not. On the way to the interview for my first job out of college, I literally had to pull over and swap out spark plugs during the trip. You have to have the right tools at the right time to reach success.

As a leader, there are certain tools I love to use and know how to use better than any other tools. But on this project, I needed to get comfortable using new tools. The first one was looking through the political, cultural, and strategic lenses.  Consciously looking through those lenses helped inform my next steps from beginning to end.

Additionally, I realized that leadership tools I had already been using had helped me in this endeavor. Particularly, collaboration and leveraging relationships using the 4I’s.  I used to think of the 4I’s in terms of “networking” with some skepticism – artificial, self-serving, and utility focused. This program has helped me understand why proactively building relationships that in turn help accomplish future objectives matters—it isn’t about me, it’s about bringing about something positive for others and the organization.  Without those relationships, many really good initiatives would otherwise fail.

Delegation has been a prized objective to me throughout my MOR experience.  This is another leadership tool that I have been wary of in the past–thinking and feeling like I’m shirking my responsibilities. Basically, delegating creates room for me to do more at a higher level, and I’m really enjoying bringing better strategy and planning, as well as more creativity, solutions, and progress to our department because of it. On the other side, it helps my team gain new perspectives, develop needed skills, and add to their own leadership toolbox.

Think of all the life experiences of the centenarian who started our story. Our country and our world have been through such tremendous change over her lifetime. Whether 100 years into the past, or 100 years into the future, leadership is about being intentional in the mindset we take, having the toolset required for our challenges, and the skillset to read the environment and apply those tools accordingly.

We need these three in combination to take each other to a better place. This week may you choose and use well the mindset, toolset, and skillset of your leadership.

Jim and Henry