Earlier in 2019, I had an interview with a reputed tech magazine where they asked me a very simple question – “What does it feel like to be a successful IT leader?”
Across SMEs and large companies, product and service teams, enterprise and consumer-facing agencies, many have emphasized the fact that a good IT leader means someone smooth implementation with a team that’s happy.
In every organization and every team, the role of IT leaders considerably varies. IT leaders can be managers, the most senior developers, indefinitely aspiring to be tech leads. Or they can be mid-level engineers who dip their toe in the “people’s matter.”
My experience says the role is so vague that IT leads have been craving something to hold onto – “Am I doing the right job?”, “Should I be doing something else?” “How should I get to the bottom of what I don’t know?”
Moreover, there’s a common delusion that those who opt for the tech industry are not very social. While such an assumption makes all of us chuckle, we have also seen IT geeks who prefer bonding with codes over colleagues.
However, the tech industry is honestly a unique environment given its combination of rising complexity, global talent, growing rivalry, and interdependence among competitors. Additionally, geographical concentrations of high density in sectors like Boston, Seattle, Bangalore, and Silicon Valley cultivate even more cultural eccentricities. All these demands a defined set of tech leadership capabilities.
So, what’s the secret when you need to be the sort of IT leader who can skillfully direct tech squads and inspire innovation at the same time?
What Defines a Successful IT Leader?
When Darwin coined the revolutionary phrase “survival of the fittest,” it essentially sheds light on all the aspects of human life. For businesses, it means building adaptable and flexible processes geared up by constant communication, automation, and data. If you fail to follow the path of evolution, it might spell disaster for your organization.
Recently, I went through an interesting study conducted by the University of Washington. It predicted that 40% of present organizations on the S&P 500 will not exist in the next decade. That is disruption up and running.
So, I presume all the IT leads in the world must build a rock-hard foundation and turbocharge their career in the upcoming years. Here’s how:
Understand and Value Your People
Yes, you put many advanced systems and brand-new technologies in place but what matters the most at the end of the day is your workforce. In a world where technology is advancing at a lightning speed with growing skill gaps, the most valuable asset you can probably have is the people in your organization.
Therefore, creating an internal environment where your people can acknowledge the trust you have in them and their potential is a necessity. In return, it empowers your team members to thrive and succeed. Besides, a cohesive working environment brings a sense of confidence which eggs them to experiment, innovate, and come up with refreshing possibilities on the table.
As a COO of an established IT company, my ability to get my hands on everyday development projects is no longer my most important priority. Rather, I have recognized the most valuable resource I can bestow is my time. Trust me, building a rapport with clients and employees builds effective relationships, along with genuine palpable outcomes through brainstorming. All these ultimately lead to innovative new products and services.
Foster a Disruptive Culture
We believe in fostering ‘crazy’ business ideas about enterprise software innovation from the very beginning of my career. We went on to place people at the core and disrupt the contemporary tech industry. As we got bigger from the startup phase and headed towards being an industry expert at scale (and there’s still a long way to go), we had to carefully reimagine the art of business while retaining an innovative mindset as part of our organization’s culture.
As an entrepreneur, it has been quite a lesson to acknowledge that great ideas sound a bit crazy at the beginning. I’m not saying all out-of-the-box ideas are viable, but we need to create a working environment where we don’t only encourage people to come up with unique ideas but consider them as well. In that way, the organization will have a rich talent pool to stay on the edge of the industry.
No entrepreneur wants to end up a venture in failure, but in the tech industry, it’s a part of the game. As people leaders, we need to celebrate the practical failures of ourselves as the management, our teams, our organization and encourage innovation. Suppose someone from your team ardently dedicates themselves to understanding and analyzing a successful project, from customer satisfaction to tech stacks and expenses. In that case, there’s ample scope to learn even from the initial mistakes.
With failure comes risk. If you’re taking bold action, you’re most likely to fail occasionally. But identifying the problem and reflecting on all the business efforts invested in it, unveils many unanswered questions. If your employees are unwilling to make daring moves because you frown upon failure, you might never reach the sky.
When we celebrate failures in our organization, we celebrate the high endeavor and spirit of our workforce. That helps us to keep hustling and being in the swim.
Think Ahead of the Time
Did you ever have to walk around in a dark room without a source of light? Back in my childhood days, power cuts often made me do this. It was not a very comfortable feeling as I would walk into something I couldn’t see a lot of times. All I needed was a flashlight.
Today, when technology is changing everything in a blink, ensure you’re prepared with your own flashlight ie. your farsightedness. Things change dramatically when you don’t pay enough attention. Amid a huge mass of deadlines, distractions, personal and home issues, we can fail to observe the significant disruptions, technologies, trends, and many other outside changes. But if you have a distinct vision and the readiness to adopt changes, things might not happen so fast for you.
And the action moves? As I tell my peers, your responsiveness is your capability to light up the trends around you. I have met quite a few pioneers, and each one of them has an insatiable thirst for knowledge: magazines, books, reports, etc.
To me, developing the expertise to keep a constant eye on emerging skills is nothing but a profound skill. It requires you to connect the dots and predict the impact of those trends on the current and future market. Although it takes time, you’ll be able to transform the changes into new business opportunities one day.
Maintain a Team Balance
The last step to mention would be about balancing your team members. More often than not, IT leaders may be a little biased towards people with technical skills. But you must level your right-brained employees with left-brained tech capabilities.
Your developers might search the market and bring up exemplary tech skills, but your non-technical team members also hold equal importance in your project. How? With their caliber to incorporate a customer-focused approach, their ability to plug-in out-of-the-box hacks and empathy towards the development process. I always look for a wide array of different perspectives in a project so that effective collaboration and teamwork can produce a greater sum instead of its bits and parts.
The eccentric nature of the tech industry is not going to change anytime soon. But what you can change – and swiftly – is your capability as a tech leader to manage the distinctive challenges of this niche. Together, I hope these suggestions prepare IT leaders to stand out in this world and outperform even the brightest and smartest.
Yes, changes are going to be there at each step of your journey. Still, if you fail to figure out your game plan – a realistic and reasonable picture of the well-being of stakeholders – to triumph over those changes, your endeavors might not be ever appreciated.