The world of IT leadership has changed; it’s no longer about keeping IT systems humming. It is now about the ability to lead high performance organisations that partner with the business to consistently deliver services.
This means you have no choice but to become an exceptional leader who can work with clients, demonstrate business and financial acuity, execute projects and deliver results.
This takes work and it can be challenging, confronting, and threatening while at the same time exciting, new and inspiring.
There are six mindset shifts that one must make to become an effective IT leader.
Mindset 1: Plan and think about the big picture
Effective leadership relies on your ability to create a future that your team can see, showing them how you will get there and having them be inspired and excited to be part of it.
You need to develop a strategy that’s based on a set of clear, finite priorities based on what is important to the client – both within IT and out in the business. All projects and requests must be looked at from where they fit in the overall business strategy.
The entire IT organisation needs to develop one set of priorities, all focused on what’s important to the business. Avoid the common mistake of letting each area of IT set individual priority lists, which eventually leads to them conflicting with each other.
Now, the key to doing this is that as an IT leader, you must get out there and talk with your clients on a frequent basis. Venture out into the community and mingle.
Mindset 2: Be proactive
You cannot be a leader if you adopt a passive mentality. The foundations of leadership are built on accountability and responsibility. Leaders don’t blame, point fingers or take the easy way out. Leaders take proactive action and create the future.
Do you find yourself sitting passively, happy with the status quo? Or are you always looking to increase your standards and reach new limits?
Mindset 3: Don’t delve into tactics
You may have started working in the IT industry because you enjoy solving technical issues and working with technology – however that is no longer your role. Your role is to create strategies for the future while your team handles the short-term tactical situations.
If you feel you don’t have time to spend on people, strategy, and relationships, it’s an indication of a larger issue such as not having an effective team in place. It also means you haven’t created an effective environment where team members know what is expected of them and are accountable for their performance.
Mindset 4: Have the courage to be candid
If there is something that you don’t think is working, say so. Most people don’t like conflict and very often seek to avoid it. Not all conflict is bad.
When handled properly, conflict can be good. It can be a constructive process that leads to innovation and solutions that would not have been seen without it. This means not taking it personally and separating it from emotions.
Having the courage to be candid is also around your own capabilities and weaknesses. Once you’ve identified your weaknesses, you can go to work on them or hire people for your team who will fill in those gaps.
Mindset 5: Prepare for and embrace change
If you fight, resist or ignore change, be prepared for a negative impact on your team, organisation and career. The IT profession is about change and change is the one constant.
Change can come in many forms: technology, corporate culture, business direction, industry direction, geographic landscape, legal requirement, or security threats. No matter the nature of the change, the skill required is to be aware of its potential and capable of analysing how to deal with it.
Mindset 6: Deal with complexities
Our success revolves around our relationships with our clients, peers, and staff. We must be able to anticipate, understand, respect and work through these relationships and all the complexities associated with them.
It is frequent interaction and relationship building that will enable you to see and predict what’s coming down the road in the future.
A good suggestion is to develop a relationship strategy. Identify five or six key people who you need to develop a relationship with (clients or executive team members) and then once you have built those relationships, create a new list and keep doing this on an on-going basis, developing relationships in a genuine and unforced manner.
Join the CIO Australia group on LinkedIn. The group is open to CIOs, IT Directors, COOs, CTOs and senior IT managers.