Having been a business owner for more than a decade, an entrepreneur and founder of several start-ups, if there’s anything I’ve learned about successful businesses, it’s that everything rises and falls with leadership. And I’m not only talking about the responsibility of the owner, president or CEO.
Today’s IT leader is one of the most important leadership roles in the company. Think about it: IT leaders are the flagship for innovation, efficiency and security. They pave the way for the organization to grow, innovate and evolve in this rapidly changing business environment we all live and work in.
In today’s age of digital transformation, I believe seizing the mantle of IT leadership is critical so businesses in any industry can compete and thrive. Issues such as the rapid growth of mobile devices, the constant diversification of cloud services and the rigors of securing all these new capabilities make a tech-savvy leader indispensable to any organization.
But what makes a good IT leader? Here’s a list of seven traits I feel are most important for today’s IT leader:
#1 Be a change-maker
To keep pace with the tempo of digital business, an IT leader must do more than be comfortable with change or be content reacting to change. Today, a successful IT leader should not only encourage change, but be the cause of change in the organization. Cybersecurity, compliance and business continuity practices, for example, require a proactive posture to be effective.
#2 Never stop learning
Every good leader understands the importance of continual learning and growth. Sure, managing one’s hectic schedule to include continuing education is a challenge. But an IT leader understands that losing touch with the evolution of digital business — its opportunities and challenges — could mean losing customers, sales, employees, etc.
#3 Strong teamwork orientation
For IT projects and initiatives to succeed, teamwork is not only vital, it is a requirement. Team-oriented leadership delivers results by building a team of people with diverse skills to complete the task. A team-oriented leader must reach out to others who can give help and bring them on-board to meet a common goal.
#4 Ability to influence or persuade people
It was once thought the art of persuasion was only needed by people in sales. IT leaders must often sell their ideas to others and having the skills to do this can be the difference between success and failure.
If you have a project or initiative you want to be successful, it will take the help of others, and often these people must be persuaded to give you the help that is needed.
#5 Be a problem-solver
Indeed, being a problem-solver means taking leverage of technical acumen. But the role goes beyond the literal and virtual nuts and bolts of technology solutions. Good IT leaders apply their flair for solving problems to building and shaping teams. And when times get tough, they apply their aptitude to resolving conflicts and motivating progress.
#6 Confidence in communication
Good IT leaders need not be great writers or orators. What they need most is faith in their credibility and comfort with their authority. Authority and credibility are the two greatest traits that inspire colleagues to listen and pay attention.
#7 Sense of humor
Good leaders in any profession or industry recognize there’s a time to buckle down and a time to loosen up. In any business endeavor, when dealing with technology problems or any other set of issues, when we lose the joy in our work, we usually lose our productivity, too.
Leaders are innovative and challenge the status-quo. Leaders ask what, when, where and why. Leaders have an eye on the horizon and have a long-term perspective. Leaders focus on the people and inspire trust.
Today’s IT leader must be more in-tune than ever before. Business tools are rapidly changing, employees have become more demanding and technology is constantly reshaping how we do business.
Take a moment to take stock of the IT leadership in your organization. Is it time to outsource projects that are too complex? Is it time to invest in simple soft skills, like writing and presentation? Maybe it’s time to hire a consultant to conduct a deep-dive in your infrastructure issues. Whatever the case may be, make leadership a priority for IT. Either way, it’s going to lead you one way or another.
David Darmstandler is CEO of Datapath, an IT services company with headquarters in Modesto. You can reach him at [email protected].