DorobekInsider guest blogger: former EPA CIO Molly O’Neill offers up two books worth reading

Monday - 4/6/2009, 11:04am EDT

As you might know, I am taking some vacation time this week enjoying some time on the other coast… but yes, one of the ways that I actually relax is by writing, so… I’ll still be posting. That being said, I have asked a few people whom I respect to offer their insights. We’re starting off the week with Molly O’Neill, the formerCIO at the Environmental Protection Agency, who recently was selected for Federal Computer Week’s prestigious Federal 100 Eagle award.

The recent appointment of Vivek Kundra as the new Federal CIO was not surprising to DorobekInsider.com readers. Now that the news is official, the large CIO community – feds and the contractors, will be watching closely. If you have met Vivek, you know the energy he brings, but what kind of federal leader will he become? This is a question of many of the new leaders as their appointments are being announced. It is easy to get involved in the hype, excitement and opportunity to implement your ideas. However, channeling the excitement and bold ideas into either results or transformational change is the challenge. Time will tell how our new leaders approach this but I hope they are successful.

Given the government leadership changes occurring, it seems like a good time to talk about a few good books the might help them. Personally, I think leadership is inherent to many, but we can learn to become better, more successful leaders. There are tons of books on effective leadership – and I’ve read many them. However, the two that stand out to me are Leadership on the Line: Staying Alive Through the Dangers of Leading by Ronald A. Heifetz and Marty Linsky and You’re in Charge, Now What?: The 8 Point Plan by Thomas J. Neff and James M. Citrin. Both of these books are a couple years old but still good.

Leadership on the Line, there are some great stories on how tough it is to be a leader. Leaders are change agents and they have the battle scars to prove it. That said, if they have earned the battle scars only to have the troops return to their old behaviors, the battle scars were fought for nothing.

You’re in Charge, Now What? takes you through the 8 point plan of being an effective leader. The guidelines for this involve listening and actively engaging others in their ideas. This way, the people being led are part of the problem solving and feel engaged.

What I like about these two books together is that the messages are the same—effective leaders need to listen and be inclusive to those they are leading. So, as the new government leaders begin their exciting journeys, I hope they remember that they will be most successful in their pursuits if they continue engaging and listening to the larger community.

– Molly O’Neill