Becoming a great leader means understanding the technology, effectively communicating its strategic application, and rallying employees to become better team members. Clear communication and adept people management are two key characteristics. With the ever-changing landscape, IT faces a set of challenges that makes the skills necessary for great leadership even more important.
Current trends and issues that IT executives need to address today include:
- the fast pace of development in technology
- the complexity of integrating systems, processes and applications
- the problems of legacy systems
- constant threats, i.e. cybersecurity
The challenges of constantly evolving technologies mean that IT leaders must stay current. Working with the frustrations of old systems demands strategic problem-solving. The complexity of any IT project requires cultivating effective groups. The real threat to all businesses of cyber-sabotage means that IT leaders are ever forecasting problems and finding solutions.
There are many leadership styles and tools available. Leaders need to find the right approach for who they are, and also must adapt to use techniques appropriate for the situation. Using Porter’s Five Forces, Gartner Magic Quadrant, S-curve, brainstorming and SWOT analysis can help identify a problem and begin the process of improvement. Gartner Magic Quadrant is particularly useful when leaders need context to grasp why the difficulty exists. Learning how and when to apply these tools is part of the management training that any great IT leader requires.
Leadership also requires an ability to galvanize a team, communicate a strategy and cultivate support at the highest levels of a business. These are some behaviors that effective leaders present. The guidance and training of teachers and mentors can help you identify and refine your leadership style. Good leaders everywhere know to:
Say what you will do and do what you say – Setting manageable expectations and being accountable are important as the temptation to overpromise can be great under pressure. Leaders know the importance of delivering results and negotiating expectations to ensure they deliver on what they promise.
Remain self-aware – Everyone knows the boss who yells at employees after a bad client lunch. Remain self-aware; recognize your own flaws or areas for improvement. Self-improvement is a constant process of learning about yourself.
Delegate – Leaders must be willing to recognize that members of their team may know more in some area than they do. Embrace that diversity of knowledge and delegate work accordingly. In a time of employee empowerment and engagement, leaders must encourage employees to build on their knowledge and strength. Only then will the team members feel a sense of commitment to the work and their leader.
Support collaboration – The complexity of technology these days requires people to work together. Group projects are inevitable. Leaders must recognize how to cultivate a collaborative environment by understanding how to combine personalities and tasks for the best outcome.
Refine people skills – A leader does not stand alone but works with and guides a team to help them succeed. Leaders need to be authentic, show integrity and express compassion while dealing with a myriad of personalities, all of whom have different issues and concerns. Leaders have learned the skills to manage people who often don’t yet know how to manage themselves.
Be strategic – A manager might simply follow orders, but a leader understands the business strategy and how to help solve current problems within that umbrella. Every decision is a part of the whole business and leaders must think strategically if they are to succeed.
Communicate – At the heart of all these recommendations is the need to communicate. This sounds easy but communication isn’t simply telling people what to do or how to do it. Making project expectations clear is important, and motivating your team to work well takes more effort than providing a list of demands. Effective communication is necessary at the strategic level to develop business goals that will work across departments and teams.
Learn, Learn more – Few other industries require the constant learning that IT does. You can never know it all, so a commitment to staying abreast of industry developments is vital. Similarly, management practices are evolving alongside technology so seeking educating resources in best management practices will ensure you succeed as a leader.
Becoming a leader in IT is about more than putting in time and building experience. A knowledge base in problem-solving techniques, management practices, communication approaches and personality styles is necessary. As the information technology industry grows, great leaders will be needed to manage the teams and changes of the future. An education in management and leadership will help you succeed.