The Transparent CIO

For some reason, I’ve had several conversations with folks about Transparency in government leadership.  It seems to me that this is one of those terms that everyone tosses around with little common understanding about what that truly means.  True transparency, I believe, comes with some amount of risk.  So, I think I will push the envelop a bit and make myself a little more transparent – I certainly talked the talk lately, so let me walk the walk.


Today, I will blog about how I feel.  For the introvert in me, this is a near death experience – and this is not an exaggeration.  And my purpose is to (1) see what’s up with this Transparency Thing; (2) invite conversations about Leadership; and (3) having faith that Transparency is a good Thing, improve my leadership abilities.


One of my favorite books is A Leadership Moment, by Michael Useem.  It’s an inspiring and tragic account about several well-known leaders and how they prepared and performed during their leadership moment. One story included the leadership and preparation of NASA Flight Director Eugene Kranz and the ultimate rescue of the Apollo 13 crew. 


So, this is what I’m thinking – am I going to be ready for my leadership moment? And this is what I’m feeling – that I have talents that could help me that I’m “saving” for something perhaps less risky? … something perhaps more safe?


Some may be familiar with a parable about The Unprofitable Servant.  In summary, the story tells of a certain master who gives each of his servants 5, 2, and 1 talents respectively.  After returning, he found that he got a pretty good ROI from two of the three who doubled their original investment.  However, the servant with only 1 talent saved his and hid it to keep it safe from harm or loss.  The Unprofitable Servant – sure glad that’s not me … or it is?


I had a leadership moment about 13 years ago.  I was trying really, really hard to hide my talents inside a data center.  I had a boss that would call on me as his little organizational problem solver.  I could always tell, when he was about to ask me.  He gave me this “look”.  I’ll never forget one “look” he gave me.  I just started cleaning my office and waiting for my boss to call.  That call was to work on establishing a Web 1.0 service.  I went kicking and screaming and shed many tears over that gig.  The tears were shed from using talents I wanted to hide.  Yet, I used them anyway in what ended up being a defining leadership moment in my career. 


I find it no coincidence that as I stand at this Web 2.0 point of inflection that I am kicking and screaming and shedding tears about the push to use particular talents that I prefer to hide and not even admit I have.  Like the heroes that Useem writes about, I will need to invest all my talents in order to be prepared for that leadership moment and I won’t know when that moment will come. And all of this makes me feel afraid.


As there are boundaries and limitations to all this transparency stuff, I will not disclose the particular talents, though some of you out there already know what they are.  But as a good steward of this blog, I need to say without question, that a CIO gig is a leadership gig.  Some how, some way, any leader, including a CIO leader, will have to be prepared for her leadership moment.  The self-aware leader will have to be prepared to utilize all of her talents when those moments come.


Linda Cureton, CIO NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

7 thoughts on “The Transparent CIO”

  1. I am sure that within NASA’s organization there are many people that have already seen the talents that you percieve as saving. The leadership skills that you demonstrate through your accomplishments and achievements have benefited not only NASA, but the Federal Government as well. It is a breath of fresh air to see someone such as yourself, consider that preparation for the next level, or leadership moment is an ongoing learning experience.

  2. I enjoyed your being open and sharing with what you thought as well as how you feel.

    How do you think this will help you be a better leader? I see it as holding me accountable and in that space I can learn like you said where I hold another strength, being birthed.

  3. See a little advice for this web-dot-zero thing (Gosh, me giving advice to a NASA CIO!). In one word: Multimedia.
    I enjoy tour texts a lot, though I think you could greatly enhance your “leadership communication bandwidth” should you just take advantage of available multimedia tools: images, photographs, audiofiles, video, animation, hyperlinking, and so on.
    Sounds scary, doesn’t it?
    Best wishes,

  4. Linda

    your words are always inspiring.
    I have had many leadership moments and many were life and death situations. I am glad that me and my troops were lucky and made it out alive.

    I feel like an unprofitable servant at times because there are moments and situations that cause me to not share my talents for fear of being out classed and outsmarted.

  5. I am new to your blog and I was somewhat skeptical about senior leaders “blogging”. I am an introvert and so that is a natural reaction. After reading your blog, I have completely changed my mind. I found it relavent and useful. What a great tool. Thanks for getting this going. I look forward to continuing to read and respond. JA

  6. Dear Alfonso FR:

    Those are great suggestions. I appreciate you taking the time for the constructive comments. I am going to see how I can utilize them.

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