Tuesday, June 9, 2009

A sad day for strategic leaders

Today I learned that Edward G. Novak passed away. Ed was an extraordinary person and a strategic leader. I first met him when he spoke at a software quality conference several years ago. He wasn't the first executive to speak at such a conference but he was the first to bring along his staff member who managed his projects. He featured her as a co-speaker and demonstrated not only his own qualities as a leader but his willingness to give public acknowledgement of the accomplishments of a so-called subordinate.

At the time he spoke, he was a Senior Vice President with Bank of America. He was a life-long banker with a reputation as someone who could engage employees and customers and still meet business goals. He built strong teams where ever he went. For many years he was a member of the Board of Trustees for the Baltimore Museum of Industry and also chaired that board. His leadership came through time and again as he helped this important preserver of Baltimore's rich heritage thrive even in tough times.

As an executive, Ed excelled at Hoshin planning and always looked for the best practices. When asked why he brought along his project manager to speak at the conference he replied, "I didn't know any better. I thought everybody teamed up." When I interviewed him for my book, Conventional Wisdom: How Today's Leaders Plan, Perform, and Progress Like the Founding Fathers, I explored his ideas on team building. Here is what he said.

"My job is to deal with clients and work with our technology partners...I'm a banker. I don't know the technology side. I knew my weaknesses and knew I needed somebody who understood technology and could get our vision built. My value would be understanding our business. I saw, from day one, that it was a partnership. We would partner to be successful...It wasn't any stroke of brilliance. This was the only way I could think of going about it to be successful.
Novak's modesty aside, his way of partnering for success has become a best practice within the bank and is widely emulated."
Ed left us too soon but he leaves behind a legacy of great leadership, service to his community, and many warm friendships. Farwell friend.