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Villanova Friday, Week 3: IT Leadership Alchemy

This video discusses the course text book I’m using for my Maximizing IT/IS Team Effectiveness studies. For those of you who would prefer to read the transcript, it’s below.

This is the course book that I’m using for the Maximizing IT/IS Team Effectiveness course that I’m taking with Villanova University at the moment. It’s called IT Leadership Alchemy and it’s by Lou Russell and Jeff Feldman.

They’re using the concept of alchemy – of turning base metals into gold – to illustrate various leadership principles throughout the book. I can understand that it’s an interesting concept and they have made the link very well in some places. But in other places, I think they’ve taken the metaphor a bit too far. So if read you a piece, you might see what I mean.

This is from Chapter 3 which is about resiliency:

Alchemy is the blending of base ingredients toward the creation of something new. Something where the [whole surpasses] to some of the parts. Resiliency is the same: A combination of abilities blended together into a competency package in which each element enhances the potency of the others. Each skill has its own standalone value but when combined, they produce something truly remarkable.

I think they’ve tried to force it in some places. But that is not to say the book isn’t without value. There’s a section in here about coaching which is actually really really useful and I think that’s one of the key strong points of the book.

There’s also a really interesting discussion about the nature of trust and how as a leader, you can create trust or at least work within a framework to promote a trusting environment. And there’s a piece here in Chapter 4 around interpersonal and team skills which I also wanted to read. I think this is something that spoke to me: “Trust is based upon our opinion about a person with a given context and may be shaped by several factors:

  • Credibility: The degree of skill, knowledge and experience we believe the individual has within the context for which we may offer our trust.
  • Consistency: The degree to which we believe we can anticipate the individual’s performance based on past experiences.
  • Communication: The degree to which ongoing information provides the confidence and reassurance we need to accept that our trust is deserved.”

So that section and this whole piece in here about managing conflict I found really interesting, very useful, which is good because there are other areas in the book that I didn’t find that useful. The piece about communication, the section on communication is actually very weak. I felt that there wasn’t anything specific in the communication chapter that related to us as project leaders, or us as IT leaders. In fact, it just tells you things about active listening, stuff that as a project manager, you should know anyway. So I felt that let the book down slightly.

But I’m finding an interesting read. I haven’t quite got to the end of the book yet. There are bits and pieces that I haven’t read yet. The authors are very keen on the concept of journaling – writing down on your thoughts and feelings and I expect you would get a lot more out of the book if you took that to the extreme and created a leadership journal. It’s not something that sits very comfortably with me but I have been taking notes as I go through and I suppose that’s my interpretation of the journaling exercises. So I’m looking forward to reading the last few chapters and seeing what the rest of the Villanova course has to offer.

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About Elizabeth Harrin

Elizabeth HarrinElizabeth Harrin FAPM is a professional project manager and award-winning blogger behind A Girl's Guide To Project Management. She's passionate about demystifying project management and making tools and techniques work in the real world. She's also the author of several books including the PMI bestseller, Collaboration Tools for Project Managers.
Elizabeth lives in the UK with her family. She uses her organisation and project management skills at home, and also to help other bloggers at Totally Organised Blogging.


  1. gypc_dave says

    19 February, 2011 at 5:41 pm

    Great video, Elizabeth. I’m glad you’re reporting on both the quality of the content, and how applicable it might be to someone already working as a project manager. These are the dimensions we’ll need to examine in deciding whether to take the course, ourselves. And of course, I’m still following your progress!

    • Elizabeth says

      19 February, 2011 at 6:27 pm

      Dave, I know you are holding me to account! Next Friday marks the halfway point in the course, so watch this space for more info.


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