My early days as a Data Leader.

November 12, 2015 — Leave a comment

My career has taken many paths over the course of time. In my early years I was very much involved in the Music Business, specifically on the audio engineering & studio management side of it. I got my early start in Detroit at a little place called Motown, and quickly moved into opportunities where my engineering & management skills & acumen were finely honed by roles that had ever-growing responsibilities associated with them. My final position in the “Music Biz” before I left for the technology vendor (Sony) & management consulting (IMECS) world was as VP & GM of Criteria Studios in Miami. Criteria was known then as “Atlantic (Records) South” and had many hundreds of Platinum & Gold records (along with other awards) lining the studio walls (there were 5 of them). All of these awards were based on the sales of records by the numerous artists who had produced & recorded their hit records there over the studios 25+ year history. Just prior to returning to Criteria for my last assignment there (I was previously Chief Engineer in an earlier stint), I was the GM for Island Studios worldwide, part of the Island Records Group run by Chris Blackwell. This is where the theme for my presentation at Data Leadership 2015 starts to come into focus (Profiles in Data Leadership).

In 1977 (yes, I am that old) I arrived in London as the new GM to review the Islands studios there, to make final plans for the construction of the second Studio at Compass Point  as well as to support the efforts at Bob Marley’s “Tuff Gong” studio which was soon to be under construction in Kingston on an Island Records property. I spent my time shuttling from the London Kensington Hilton (the site for Data Leadership 2015) to the various Island facilities around London (Hammersmith). I was quite young then in relative terms, but remember all of it as if it were yesterday and realized just how much Accountability was being placed at my feet (not just the Responsibilities of my job description). Island Records was betting a lot of my engineering know-how, my management acumen and my strategic vision for the future of its recording & production assets and other strategic endeavors. I knew then that I needed to become a Data Leader as data (albeit analog) was our business and everything that I did going forward needed to create an environment where all of our engineers, producers & artists (all of Islands artists recorded at our facilities) could benefit from the best recording & production capabilities available anywhere (our competitive advantage) in order to create award winning (and high selling) records, music videos, etc. We also needed our studios to be so highly regarded that the rest of the music business would stand in line to use them in order to create hit records for themselves as well. My ability to accomplish this came from the Top-down Leadership that Chris Blackwell and his Executive Team provided me with and their support & mentorship along this journey. When I left Island Records in 1981 to move to Nashville to perform similar such miracles there I was no longer a young Engineer/Manager, but a Data Leader in my own right. During my tenure we had created the right Data Leadership structures from the Top-down, adapted our Culture to act as one organization in spite of huge geographical & cultural differences and leveraged all of our analog data know-how & creativity to create competitive advantage for our studios and their clients.

When I look back on these experiences and the early tests of my leadership abilities, I realize how much the world has changed around me. Today we continue to have Data Leadership by Proxy where non-executive technical managers are asked to assume accountabilities that Senior Executives are either unwilling or incapable of supporting. We have a myopic focus on technology and buzz words as “engines for innovation”, but realize than neither has the required fuel that only true leadership can provide. And, finally, I see everyone wanting to be a “Specialist Unicorn” in their field of expertise so that they can make more money or feel superior to everyone around them when the key to success lies in the “Pervasive Use of data & analytics, not the Selective use by the few”.

In my presentation at Data Leadership 2015 I will explore the background of Eight CEOs who are featured in my work: “Profiles in Data Leadership”. I will also wax a bit nostalgically about what it was like staying at the London Kensington Hilton before a number of them were born yet.

Cheers,

Richard

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