IT executives have plenty of their plates to manage, especially during the era of digital transformation that irrevocably changes how organizations leverage technology to get ahead of the competition. However, one topic that does not receive enough attention makes the difference between defining the most effective IT executives and defining the ones that sit in an office barking orders that are disregarded by fellow IT team members.
It is called leadership.
Dana Brownless, who founded Professionalism Matters, offers the most compelling definition of what defines a great leader. “I think a great leader is one who makes those around them better. There are many litmus tests for a great leader, but I really look to those around them: Are they growing, becoming better leaders themselves, motivated, etc.?”
Any IT professional can sit in an office and delegate responsibilities, but leadership is much more than barking out orders. Unfortunately, a study released by the Center of Creative Leadership showed nearly 40 percent of employees appointed to leadership positions within their organizations fail in their new roles within the first 18 months.
Let’s review a few effective leadership strategies for IT executives that benefit every member of your organization.
1) Foster Open Communication
IT professionals live with an ongoing reputation of working with a certain degree of reticence. Whether the reputation is true or not, effective IT executives create an open line of communication with every member of their teams. Sanjay Patoliva, who is the founder and director of Teclogiq, emphasizes the importance of honest and transparent communication.
“When you are responsible for a team of people, it is important to be straightforward,” he stated in an interview. “Your company and its employees are a reflection of yourself, and if you make honest and ethical behavior as a key value, your team will follow.”
2) Lead by Example
One of the most common reasons why IT executives fail in the quest to lead their team concerns following the “Do as I say, not as I do” principle. IT executives that do not follow the policies they want everyone else to follow can expect the policies to fall on deaf ears. This is especially true for policies that establish the adoption of certain technologies.
Leading by example also involves rolling up your sleeves and addressing technical issues by following a hands-on approach to management.
3) Establish a Connection with Your Team
For your team members to trust and understand what you want to be implemented as an IT executive, you have to know how to connect with them on a personal level. Long gone on the days when leaders remained detached from their teams for fear of developing relationships outside of the workplace. Leadership consultant, Terry St. Marie, explains that leading in a more humane way requires compassion, empathy, and most importantly, humility.
“Building a real, personal connection with your teammates is vital to developing the shared trust necessary to build a strong culture of accountability and exceptional performance,” St. Marie said during a recent speech. “With that culture in place, the team can achieve a successful business, a happy team, and a fulfilled leader.”
4) Become a Mentor
Every member of your IT team has a set of career goals. It is an integral part of your job to encourage career growth by mentoring those who respond to an IT executive who is invested in their careers. As Keri Olrich, who is the CEO of the human resources firm Abbracci Group, said, leaders should dedicate themselves to investing in the growth of their employees.
“With options as varied as on-demand, virtual and in-person options, there’s ample opportunity to continue learning new skills or further developing existing ones,” she said. “Empower your employees to take the time to learn and infuse that in the work they do.”
5) The Glass is Half-Full
As much as IT executives want their departments to run smoothly every day, the fact remains that in the world of technology, rapid changes typically are an invitation for chaos to take over, even if it rules for just a short time. The question is not whether you should expect turmoil to develop as an IT executive, but instead, the question is how do you plan to address it.
The answer is by remaining positive.
Your team members are a reflection of you. The author of The Measure of a Leader, Robert Mann, suggests focusing on good circumstances, while not ignoring the bad. “Look at three positive things about a problem before you identify what makes it dissatisfying. The more you look at the positives in a problem, the more positively people react with one another.”
6) Establish Clear Goals
Your IT team members want to know the game plan for achieving success, as well as how you plan to lead them to achieve the game plan. Amish Shah, who is the president of ALTR Created Diamonds, says effective leaders clearly explain their organization’s mission, as well as how each team member fits into the process of achieving the mission.
“For a leader to motivate and inspire, they need to keep their team in the know about their vision,” he says. “This helps employees understand the end result they’re working towards as a unit. When goals are clearly set, everyone can track progress and identify achievements in a tangible manner.”