360-Degree Leadership: Power to Impact an Organization's Performance

Earl Newsome, Global CIO & VP, Praxair Inc.
Earl Newsome, Global CIO & VP, Praxair Inc.

Earl Newsome, Global CIO & VP, Praxair Inc.

As business leaders, we want to positively impact our organizations. During my career, as an officer in the military, a consultant and currently as a CIO of a large corporation, I have learned that leading is complex and demands a 360 degree approach. Meaning, you need to be strategic, tactical and technical-- engaging, listening and leading employees at all levels. 360 leadership is deciding which path to take, navigating it effectively and rolling up your sleeves to execute your vision. Successfully implementing this leadership strategy means embracing the challenges CIOs face today head on by finding strategic partners, focusing on efficiency and developing the right culture to make an impact on your organization’s performance.

Major Challenges that CIOs Face

CIOs face multiple challenges today, including that technology is now pervasive. We must embrace this challenge and accept that technology is no longer a back-office function. Instead we must start thinking of ourselves as the president of the technology group and adopt an “owner” mindset. A CIO needs to be a strategic leader and provide oversight on how to best leverage technology and use it to enhance the business. That means we not only have to set a technology vision for our business but also make sure we can deliver on it by providing the right architecture.

 Building a plug-and-play platform allows us to build applications that accelerate the digitalization of our business and drive productivity 

Lastly, we must act quickly. We’re not obligated to perpetuate what I call the negative myths of IT, such as “you cost twice as much, deliver half of what you promise and take twice as long.” We need to bust that myth and move at the speed of business.

Partnering is a two-way street. In order to obtain the right solution, it is essential that you’re open and share strategic goals with suppliers to create a meaningful dialogue. To that point, I always ask potential partners a series of questions around my strategy. I want to understand if we are aligned from a technology perspective, understand industry best practices, how their proposal compares to the other clients they serve and what they can do for our organization – if I hear the right answers to these questions, I know I have a strong partner who understands my goals and adds value to our company.

Technological Trends

There is no debate that the digitalization trend will continue. We must heighten our focus on digitalizing operations and improving operating efficiency – it is where a CIO can create major value for the business. To accomplish this, CIOs must turn to plug-and-play solutions. These platforms will allow for building applications that accelerate the digitalization of the business and drive productivity. The elements for delivering digitalization are inconstant flux, which means the platform will evolve into a jigsaw puzzle of interconnected parts that can be expanded over time. Given this challenge, the platform needs to be a loosely coupled collection of things that can be changed as required.

The second trend is the notion of intelligence. Whether it’s RPA, machine learning or cognitive automation, the road to intelligent processes is a hot trend that is going to change the way we operate. Since the goal is to achieve positive business outcomes, we must realize smart ideas don’t simply generate great results, but intelligent processes do.

Lastly, there is a major change coming in the way we interact with technology. Our interaction will continue to evolve as more intelligent processes and technologies come to market.

Work Culture

Our strategy, iStep (Information technology and Solutions Evolution Program), is focused on outcomes and revolves around individual accountability throughout the entire organization. At Praxair, we concentrate on creating solutions and solving business problems, versus implementing just any technology. And everything we do must align with our seven strategic initiatives: hire, train and retain the best people; deliver operationally excellent products, services and customer support; act in the best interest of the company’s brand and have the right security in place so that all of its assets are protected; replicate success – meaning, look for great ideas, bring them in and reproduce them; be transparent so that the business never has to guess where you are; use technology to drive productivity through digitalization, and continue to deliver competitive advantage.

As technology continues to change, so do the challenges. But by implementing a 360 leadership approach that embraces these challenges, we can have a positive impact on the organizations we lead.