Tag Archives: change management

Lessons in Leadership

Hiking group trekking on a Crimean mountain.In many of our AIM courses, we teach about leadership. Whether leading people, new processes, or new technologies, we place a great emphasis on leadership. But what are the characteristics of a good leader?

I believe this is important to understand and practice so this week I will share with you some leadership lessons I have learned and, more importantly, I am hoping that you will share your insights.

Leading Change

Throughout my career I have had several opportunities to lead change. In my opinion, this is one of the hardest tasks because it requires you to transition people into new territory amidst skepticism and fear of the change. I once worked on a very large data center consolidation project where computers were being moved from scattered sites around the world to large centralized data centers. People had become attached to their application running on a computer that they could see and touch like a favorite pet. To move the application and hardware to an unknown location was truly a change to be reckoned with. This same scenario is being played out daily as companies transfer data and functions to the cloud. I wish we could come up with a better term than cloud so that the end result appeared more concrete and palatable to those suffering from computer separation anxiety.

From this experience I learned two valuable lessons about leadership:

  1. A good leader is a good communicator. It is important to be able to paint a plausible and even inviting picture of the future: “IF we do this, here are the benefits for you.” The first thought in everyone’s mind is “what’s in it for me?”
  2. It is vital to lead people in a direction that is in their best interest and does not lead them off a cliff. This builds trust and increases cooperation. The first time a leader moves a team or group in a direction that is not in their best interest, trust dissolves and resistance increases. Until that trust is re-established, the leader will no longer be effective.

Leading from the Middle

Hard charging and visible leaders often lead from the front. Shepherds, in contrast, lead their flocks from the back. I have found that it is sometimes necessary to lead from the middle. Recently, I had the opportunity to teach and lead a weeklong youth leadership course at a nearby camp. There were 48 teen campers and a staff of older youth. During the week, a group of campers was tasked with cleaning the dining hall. The staff was in a meeting at that time. I decided to help clean the dining hall, since I knew that I had support leading the staff meeting. The participants were pleasantly surprised that their adult leader would actually help them finish their chore so that they could go off and do what they wanted. They assumed that a proper leader was always out front TELLING them what to do, which was their limited experience with leaders, but leading from the middle builds team unity and builds respect for the leader.

A Good Leader is a Good Follower

I have come to realize that to be a good leader you must practice being a good follower. If you understand the vision and goals of the leader, then it is important that you help your teammates to achieve those goals. For example, as a follower, it is your responsibility to ask clarifying question when the vision is not clear and then support that vision once the direction has been decided. When it is time for you to lead, you would do well to have teammates who are also good followers.


I think that everyone has a chance to step into a leadership role in his or her lifetime. Whether that role is parent, coach, mentor, manager, or executive, it is important to remember to lead in a way that gets everyone to the goal safely. As the leader, it is not about you but about the group and the desired outcome for everyone.

I hope you have some leadership stories that you are willing to share with me. What worked for you? What lessons did you learn by getting it wrong the first time? Did everything turn out well, or were there lessons along the way? Let me know.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

The Perils of Being Last

Road Closed sign in Death Valley“After 12 years, support for Windows XP will end on April 8, 2014. There will be no more security updates or technical support for the Windows XP operating system. It is very important that customers and partners migrate to a modern operating system such as Windows 8.1.”

So begins the official declaration on the Microsoft website. There are still many active instances of the Windows XP operating system, including one on my home PC. Should we be more worried about “no more security updates” or “no more technical support”? Which is likely to cause more pain, and should we decide to continue using the soon-to-be unsupported operating system?


According to a recent article published by Retail Banking Research in London, “Virtually all ATMs around the world use a Windows operating system and many still use XP.” This could leave those ATMs subject to attack, should there be new security holes discovered in the XP operating system after April 8. While there are extended service contracts that customers can purchase, those only provide support and not new patches. Such contracts will also become increasingly expensive, thus are considered to be only a short-term solution. In the case of ATMs, the article mentions further security measures that are already deployed that will most likely thwart attacks while manufacturers and banks deal with upgrading their operating systems.

HIPAA Compliance

Does the Security Rule mandate minimum operating system requirements for the personal computer systems used by a covered entity?”

This was a recent question posed to the Office of Human Rights, the arm of the government charged with enforcing HIPAA and HITECH rulings and mandates. While the answer is vague, it does say:

“ … any known security vulnerabilities of an operating system should be considered in the covered entity’s risk analysis (e.g., does an operating system include known vulnerabilities for which a security patch is unavailable, e.g., because the operating system is no longer supported by its manufacturer).”

Taken to its logical conclusion, this means that after April 8, any computer system running Windows XP and generating or housing private patient information is not in compliance with HIPAA regulations. Do you have any vulnerable systems or do you know of any systems that could be out of compliance in the very near future? Do you have plans to remedy these soon?

Home Computers

According to market share statistics site netmarketshare.com, Windows XP is still running on 29 percent of desktop systems worldwide. The end-of-life/end-of-support for XP was announced by Microsoft in June 2008 through end user notifications, so why the reluctance? I don’t think that it is apathy as much as familiarity. Windows XP has been around for so long that it has become a trusted and—thanks to the additional service packs— stable operating system. Why change? Changing requires time and disruption to our normal routines, and the alternatives may not be that enticing. Do we switch to Windows 7 or the much maligned Windows 8, or are we still holding out for something better?


This blog is as much about change as it is about technology. I know that in my own life, I sometimes resist change until I am forced to face it head on, like in the case of increased security vulnerabilities in my operating system. To not change is comfortable and to change is hard. Sometimes, though, it is better and actually easier to change before we are the last one to do so.

I still have one last home PC on Windows XP. What do you recommend? Windows 7? Linux? Let me know your thoughts. I think it is time for me to change.


Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.