Leadership, Rowanism and Citisoft

leaderbooks.pngI've been thinking quite a bit about leadership in recent days.  Let me explain - we recently awarded the 14th annual Rowan Award at our Citisoft Summer Outing.  The Rowan Award is named after the central character in Elbert Hubbard's short essay and classic "A Message to Garcia", one of the most widely printed and distributed pieces of literature in history.  The story itself is a quick read and the message itself is timeless regardless of its initial publication date of 1899.  You can read it for yourself (my suggestion – read, re-read; wash, rinse, repeat), but I'll summarize; the story itself is simple enough – President McKinley was looking to deliver a vital message behind enemy lines in Cuba at a critical juncture of the Spanish-American War.  Several had failed in delivering this message, until it was suggested that Lieutenant Andrew Summers Rowan was just the man for the job.  Rowan was given the task, and delivered the message, succeeding where so many others had failed.  He did not ask "What does he look like?"; "Where is he at?"; "Who are his contacts?"; "How do I get there?"  He simply accepted the mission, delivered the message and quietly became a hero.  The moral of the story, as they say, is that we should all be so lucky to find a Rowan, or even better yet, a company full of Rowans!

Citisoft's Rowan Award isn't necessarily given to the consultant with the most billable hours, the most visible project success, or to the most senior/decorated person in our firm.  The award recipient each year is given to that consultant that has exhibited the necessary leadership traits enabling them to adapt, overcome and succeed, often in spite of some level of adversity or difficulty.  We call this "Rowanism", and the more Rowans that we can find, the better.  Citisoft is a consulting company, which most of you reading this should already know; in essence, we are a people company and we do not manufacture a product per se.  Our secret sauce is the talent of our people.  We are looking for the "IT" factor, and I don't mean "I.T." (aka Information Technology).  Don't get me wrong - IQ, technical competence, targeted experience and domain expertise are all important factors in becoming a good consultant and fitting the mold of Citisoft's staff.  However, it's those slightly more intangible traits or emotional intelligence which will truly separate the good from the great or extraordinary.

In addition to reading "A Message to Garcia", what else inspires me and gets me thinking on the all-important topic of leadership?  I have a favorite Harvard Business Review white paper entitled "What Makes a Leader?" written by Daniel Goleman.  I've been known, on occasion, to pop a PDF copy of this particular article into the Inbox of our consulting staff.  The article highlights 5 critical components of emotional intelligence that are the hallmarks of leadership. I have excerpts from this article hanging in my office, which I come back to time and again when evaluating our current or prospective consulting staff; the 5 components and their distinguishing characteristics include:

  1. Self-Awareness – self-confidence; self-deprecating sense of humor; realistic self-assessment
  2. Self-Regulation – open to change; trustworthy and integrity; comfortable with ambiguity
  3. Motivation – drive to achieve; optimism, regardless of situation; organizational commitment  
  4. Empathy – cross-cultural sensitivity; ability to understand emotional makeup of other people; experts in building and retaining talent
  5. Social Skill – effective change agents; expertise in building and leading teams

I can't overestimate the importance of establishing leadership traits in both individuals and firms.  At Citisoft, we expect our staff to be adept at business analysis and project management, in addition to possessing a specific subject matter expertise within the investment management domain.  However, the emotional intelligence factors detailed above are what separates the future leaders within most companies, and Citisoft is no different in this respect.  I want to work alongside those that are selfless and unafraid to make the difficult decisions that will drive our company forward.  We are on the lookout for like-minded individuals that recognize their own individual strengths and weaknesses, are interested in building teams, aspire to achieve and hold up to the highest standards of integrity.  Let's call it the "IT" factor – a team of 21st century Rowan's would also work just fine.