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CIO Unplugged 9/2/15

September 2, 2015 Ed Marx 4 Comments

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are mine personally and are not necessarily representative of current or former employers.


I am often asked what the difference is between a manager and leader. In simple terms, it comes down to this. Leaders replicate themselves; managers don’t.

This may seem offensive because many who would consider themselves leaders are actually barren in a professional sense. They have not replicated themselves to cultivate children in leadership. They are managers. There is nothing wrong with being a manager — you just have to be honest about it.

If you think you are a leader but no one follows in your footsteps, you are a manager. But the greatest joy of a leader is to raise someone up and see him or her succeed.

I have been blessed with two children. We were deliberate in how we raised them. From an early age, they were taught to be independent adults who would add value to society. Parenting success was largely based on our ability to mentor and model how to be an adult. I am thankful that both children are of upright character and morals, graduated from college, have noble professions, and moreover, are adding value to society in numerous other ways.

That is what leaders do — replicate. They serve as models. They mentor. They call forth the seeds of leadership within their teams, nurture them, and protect them until they can protect themselves. Then they let them go. Yes! Let them go.

I learned this early on as I observed leadership roles in my classrooms, on the playground, in Cub Scouts and Webelos, on the soccer pitch, and as an altar boy. It was all about identifying potential leaders, nurturing them, and helping them grow and—eventually—letting go.


I learned last week that another one of my former direct reports became a CIO. I cried just like I did when I let my kids go. We invested so much energy and resources into Brandon and Talitha over the years, and as hard as it was, we let them go.

Oh the pain and joy. I feel it fresh as I write. But that is what leaders do — replicate themselves. Joey was my 12th CIO. Most of the 12 serve in healthcare today, but I had one who left for the Cleveland Zoo. He said that there were many similarities with academic medicine. I believed him. Like a proud papa, I let him go.

If you are not barren, then perhaps you’ve got it down and can add fresh ideas in the comments section that might help others.

If you are barren but want to start producing children in leadership, here are some ideas that may help:

  • Self-reflection. Ouch. Yes it starts with you. Are you worthy to be replicated? Do people seek you out and want to serve you ? If not, be honest about it and figure out why. I self-reflect constantly and sometimes, I don’t like what I see.
  • Mentor. Establish a mentoring program. These can be formal or informal. You will have more success if you develop a formal program and enlist others to help.
  • Hand-offs. I still recall an Army mission where we were on patrol for three days straight. The company commander approached me early one morning and said, “Congratulations Marx, you are in charge. Take us back safely.” No time to prepare or rest. Man, I grew on that mission. My boss knew how to force me to grow. Throw surprises at your team. That is how you accelerate growth.
  • Commission. Speak life into your people. Most are beat down by the circumstances of life. Stuff happens and life and career can be hard. Counteract the negativity with an opposing spirit by encouraging those you serve. Tell them what they need to hear, but don’t believe about themselves and their abilities – that they are leaders and have what it takes. That they can be CIO. That they are better than you. That their lives matter.
  • Listen. The biggest compliment you can give is to ask for input, listen to those you serve, and take action on it. Insecure leaders are afraid and don’t listen, but doing so builds the confidence of those around you. Confident subordinates are future CIOs.
  • Model. Always lead the way. Don’t just talk about rounding floors—actually do it and take people with you. Grab them spontaneously and say, “Let’s go visit with some of our team” or “Let’s go to our hospitals and talk to clinicians directly.”
  • Opportunity. Look for opportunities for your team and pass them along. Kick them out of the nest. If you hear of a great opportunity, tell them about it and help them prepare. Leaders help locate opportunities for those they lead.
  • Legacy. Look, we should all ask ourselves what on earth are we here for. We ask ourselves those deathbed questions about legacy and if our life mattered now. What better way to leave a legacy than to have dozens of leaders out there you helped develop who are saving lives? Wow. That is something to live and work for.
  • Time. Your time is not yours. You owe everything to your team. Spend social and work time with them. Laugh, cry, reflect, vent. The reason my kids are successful adults is directly proportional to the time we gave them. If you don’t give yourself to your team, they will never escape adolescence and grow into the leaders they have the ability to be.

What are you going to do with this challenge? Are you a leader with offspring … or are you a manager? What will you do to move from manager to leader? What will you do to increase your impact in this world?

One is too small a number for greatness (Maxwell). You need to multiply yourself if you desire to be a leader. Let’s do this.

Ed encourages your interaction by clicking the comments link below. You can also connect with Ed directly on LinkedIn and Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

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Currently there are "4 comments" on this Article:

  1. Another tool in the box of those who would benefit from implementing the knowledge imparted. You only need to want to use what is given to you.

  2. I’ve been waiting for the latest “Ed Marx, pat myself on the back post”. Sure wish I wasn’t still a worthless manager. Please find another CIO to write this stuff.

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