Nick Donofrio traces his 44 years of success to his childhood.
The former Executive Vice President of Innovation and Technology at IBM credits his strict Italian-immigrant father with setting him on the right path. And while Nick Jr. lived the values that Nick Sr. instilled in him, he used a very different leadership style to move his way up the corporate ladder, pulling young subordinates along with him.
In his new book If Nothing Changes, Nothing Changes, Donofrio credits a conversation he had with his dad while sitting on their porch in Beacon, New York, in the early 1950s. “Dad, why do you push me so hard? Why is nothing ever good enough?” he asked.
“Son, if you want something different, then you have to do something different. You have to change,” he said. “You have to work harder and you have to constantly improve how you do things.”
The young Donorio, now an author, speaker, and IBM fellow, shares these seven lessons his late father passed on to him:
- The way forward to a better life is through hard work.
- You need to pay attention to learn how to do things right.
- Whatever job you are doing, do it well and with pride.
- When you do your work well and correctly, your sense of pride is your reward.
- You make many choices every day, often subconsciously. Use your free will to make
- The decisions that are right for you. If you give up your free will, that is your choice.
- And of course, if nothing changes, nothing changes.
While he held on to his dad’s wisdom as he propelled through IBM, he practiced leadership in a very different way. Nick Sr. was a strict and domineering father who demanded order and respect. And it worked. Through hard work, young Nick joined the relatively small IBM and became an early evangelist of technology as a source of good for the world and for business. As he moved from division to division within the growing technology giant, he played the role of mentor, always sharing his wisdom with others and championing younger colleagues to join him in new tasks.
Donofrio led by example, he led by sharing his skills and knowledge, and he led by giving people the opportunity to succeed and the freedom to experiment. He himself was an innovator but he helped others become innovators too.
To this day, he continues to mentor and trains minority youth to develop the skills they need to succeed in the workforce. He is on boards of public companies and nonprofits, where his philanthropic generosity is felt by many.
And while his father instilled a message into Nick Jr., Nick Jr. found his own leadership style and voice, guiding hundreds of young engineers and thinkers to drive change in the world.