Inspiring Success

A blog from Creating IT Futures

Back to Listing

June 17, 2013

Leadership as a Learned Trait

Aptitude and attitude are not enough to move up in today’s business environment. Meaningful success also requires character and teamwork.

“It’s not enough to be a smart technical person,” said Paul Cronin, a member of the boards of directors for CompTIA and Creating IT Futures. “If people are going to stand up in their own ways and feel the strength inside them, that takes something else. That takes being people of character and value.”

That message is one Cronin shared with students in the IT-Ready Apprentice Program in Minneapolis/St. Paul in May, when he facilitated a two-day Leadership Challenge® training workshop.

In his role as senior vice president at Atrion Networking Corp., Cronin is responsible for developing strategic relationships and markets that enable Atrion’s IT Services business to be among the elite in its industry. Key to his role is developing next-generation leaders.

Moreover, developing leadership and character is a cause Atrion has embraced as an organization. The company offers its signature leadership training series for its employees, managers and executives – as well as customers and suppliers, Cronin said. The company’s experience has been that properly trained leaders not only perform better on the job, they motivate people around them to become more productive, responsible and loyal.

“Our mission as a company has been positively impacting the lives of others,” he said. “Helping people learn how to develop the leadership skills within themselves enables them to be successful in their personal and professional lives – a real win-win."

A critical message Cronin shared with IT-Ready students was that no one is born a leader; rather, it is a learned trait. This means “regular employees” – like IT-Ready graduates – are capable of making large, positive differences within their work organizations.

“It’s important that people see themselves as having greater value than what they can contribute technically,” Cronin said. “Being part of a team and contributing as a team can really accelerate one’s own success.”

Working with Amy Spear, senior manager of national workforce programs for the Creating IT Futures Foundation, Cronin conducted a number of hands-on exercises to encourage IT-Ready students to work collaboratively within a team setting – much like they would be engaged in a business, working with other employees

“Once students realized that our workshop included experiential learning – and wasn’t a ‘let me kill you by PowerPoint’ presentation, they really opened up and got engaged,” Cronin said. “Individual and team learning took place through experimentation and observation – and team learning is very much like on the job training.”

Cronin and Spear also helped students learn to identify the ways managers supervise, and how, in light of those work styles, individual contributors can succeed in their own right.

“IT-Ready students represent all parts of the workforce – some will be entering the workforce for the first time, while others have worked for decades and will be re-entering in a different capacity,” Spear said. “Everyone is going to encounter different leaders no matter where he or she is in a career. So what’s important is how you can be a more effective team player so you can succeed within your own career path and move up.”

To learn more about Atrion and its Leadership Challenge® workshop, visit