Frank Liebeskind is a man who lives life to the max. He's energetic, passionate and utterly comfortable with himself. And he's no shrinking violet, as an aptitude test he took a couple of years ago made abundantly clear. The testers told him with a tinge of awe that of the 5000 people who'd taken the test before him only 20 had scored higher for extroversion than he. You get the feeling he's as pleased as punch about that.
Now extroversion is not a quality that's necessarily desirable for CIOs, Liebeskind says, especially for those working within the many Australian organisations that are utility focused. But, in his current job as group general manager, business solutions with Pinpoint, extroversion spun from pure unrestrained joie de vivre goes down a treat.
"I guess it's probably necessary for me to be happy because I've got to contribute more than just IT skills,"he says. "And being an extrovert also helps me to motivate a lot of my staff, because they're happy for me to go and market IT for them, for me to be able to defend them. Often they'll find they get left in the wake of business and business users - the marketers and sales people and so forth. I've found that with a strong sense of extroversion and marketing of the IT department, they feel that they're being represented fairly and correctly and someone is defending them or promoting what they do. It's the old adage of you can do a great job, but if you don't tell someone that you've done it, it gets to be fairly hollow."
If being happy is what it takes for Liebeskind to do his current job well, he's doing it very well indeed. The man who seeks balance by doing everything to excess and squeezing every possibility out of each and every minute of the day gets huge satisfaction from a role that finally lets him draw on all the skills acquired during a 30-year-long career. Having a chance to draw on his unique insights into the businesses of sales, marketing, IT and management has been "marvellous", he says.
It makes a stark contrast to the last time CIO magazine heard in detail from Liebeskind. In early 1999 Liebeskind was bored and restless. He had shepherded MMI's IT group through its corporate change program as chief manager of group IT, then left when he could not shake the feeling that after four years the challenges were largely behind him. But taking time out to smell the roses was not working out as well as he'd hoped: plans for an exotic cycling tour had fallen through and an alternative trip through Italy was still some three months away.
Fortunately things changed rapidly. The three weeks he spent cycling through Italy, challenging the majestic Dolomites, Tuscany and "every hill between", became the holiday of a lifetime. Three weeks of comfortable hotels, tough sweaty exercise and heaps of fine food left him in splendid fettle for the challenges ahead in his new role as general manager, information management with Pinpoint. He must have met them well, because less than a year after taking the job he was moved to his current position. It was a new role and a new position, where Liebeskind added responsibility for strategic projects and programs, risk management and production to his IT responsibilities.
He describes the challenge of the job as having to implement a can-do attitude, being able to manage people with continual pressure to produce, and managing the stress of staff.
It has been quite a ride for the man who started his working life as a chartered accountant in Andersen's consulting division before consulting with Accenture and in his own practice, then taking on sales and management roles at companies like Fujitsu and Praxa. But Liebeskind has also done "CIO activities"at Kerry Packer's Consolidated Press Holdings and MMI. In 1998 the Australian Computer Society (ACS) elected him a Fellow in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the Australian IT industry. A past state and federal president of AISA, a member of the ACS NSW BEC and a NSW AIIA Committee Member, he has also served as an editorial adviser to the ACS's member magazine, Informatics/Information Age, and been a prominent speaker at ACS functions.
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