What does it take to be a leading IT professional?
The first assumption may be that all you need are great tech skills. You’re the problem solver, the fixer and maybe even a bit awkward. That was the old world of IT. Today, if you really want to be an IT leader, you’ll need to hone skills more commonly employed by corner office inhabitants than by cube-dwellers.
Here are some leadership characteristics that can move you up the ranks, from solitary techie to team leader.
Use Clear Communication
No matter how good of a technician you are, you’ll never be a leader if you can’t communicate clearly, and it’s not enough if you can only speak articulately about tech topics. To be an IT leader, you need to be able to explain what needs to be done, how it should happen and be able to give feedback to team members about their performance, and support their work.
As Raju Woodward of CBTNuggets puts it, to be a tech leader, you should “be a people person.” In years past, that correlation would’ve been unthinkable, but as tech skills become increasingly integral to every field, the IT folks can no longer spend all of their time focused on machines. IT jobs are now jobs with a heavy people skills component.
Don’t forget that communication isn’t just about speaking. An IT leader needs to be a good listener as well. Being receptive to team concerns, and listening closely when others are speaking, are necessary if you’re going to successfully establish yourself as a leader.
Related Article: How to Improve Workplace Communication to Further Success
Set Goals and Have a Plan
Part of what makes a great leader is the ability to identify what needs to be done and how to do it. What are the major concerns in your office, and what can you do to attack these problems? Once you identify what needs to be done, you’ll be better situated to create an agenda for your entire team. As the professionals at SolutionIT say, “Leadership is about having a vision, setting goals and steering your team down the right road to achieve those goals in their technology careers.”
When you’re a leader, your goals become your team’s goals, and vice-versa. Hold this as a central precept in your leadership life, and it’ll serve you well.
Facilitate Team Dynamics
As much as we’re social beings, teams aren’t natural formations and they require fostering. Pay attention to how team members work together, and nip problems in the bud. A leader doesn’t allow problems to get out of control, but actively works to improve team relationships. Without the ability to keep a team in working order, you’ll find yourself alone—and possibly out of a job.
Related Article: 5 Team Building Activities That Don't Suck
Get It Done With Delegation
Some of us—especially type A personalities—have a tendency to want to do everything ourselves. It can be tempting to try to keep control by holding tightly to every task. Unfortunately, it’s unrealistic to think that you can do everything by yourself, and that’s why delegation is critical to good leadership.
Not only is it important to be able to delegate jobs to your team members, but it’s also vital that you give your team room to do things in ways that work for them. Micromanaging undermines team confidence and makes delegation far less effective. Spread the jobs around, and trust that your team can handle them.
Keep Your Tech Skills Sharp
With so much focus on honing more mainstream leadership skills, it might seem that your role as an IT professional has been somehow lessened. After all, where’s the tech in all of this?
Of course, it’s vital that you keep your tech skills sharp. Indeed, when Business.com asked what was more vital to IT leadership today, tech skills or leadership qualities, tech skills still made a strong showing. As John Rood points out, “The difference between coding and leadership is that one can be effectively taught in a classroom and the other cannot.” Some people are natural leaders, but only a well-trained tech professional can resolve big IT problems. That’ll always be the final proving ground in the tech field.