It goes without saying that IT leaders need to possess a deep level of industry knowledge and IT skills. However, CIOs and other IT managers also need to hone their IT leadership strategies to achieve ultimate success for themselves and their teams.
Survey results show that 68 percent of business leaders view people leadership as being the number one most important capability of a CIO or IT manager. At the same time, only 19 percent of companies surveyed report effective IT leadership within their organization.
Now, why exactly is effective leadership so important?
It’s common sense that good leadership can lead to increased productivity, and therefore profits. However, the degree to which this is possible is startling.
Take this study for example.
Here, researchers analyzed individual leadership qualities within a division of a Fortune 500 bank. Their results showed that the top 10% of leaders within the division earned the bank $4.5 million in gains, while the bottom 10% of leaders actually lost the bank $1.2 million.
Night and day right?
So how does one go about achieving this level of leadership success within the IT industry specifically? Don’t go anywhere, because I am about to provide you with some tried and true solutions to this burning question. Read on to find out the key ways to start killing it in your leadership capacity.
Show That You Trust Your Team
One of the top challenges identified for IT leaders going into 2020 is that we are being increasingly called to manage new areas such as generating customer insight, transforming supply chains, or even driving additional sources of income.
With all this going on—you are gonna have to start trusting your team. There are a number of reasons why this is important.
Firstly, it maximizes your time and potential, allowing you to excel in your role—or in some cases, simply manage to get your work done!
Besides this, demonstrating trust in your team will also cultivate a proactive and involved team spirit. Your team members will also grow in their capabilities.
Imagine you know your boss doesn’t trust you to do a thing without being babysat. You probably wouldn’t want to handle new or challenging projects, for fear of messing them up. In fact, you would probably start to doubt your own capabilities and make mistakes that you wouldn’t have ordinarily.
Contrastingly, by showing your team members that you trust them, you will be able to build their self-confidence and imbue them with a sense of ownership over the work they are doing.
Three key ways to go about this are to delegate, empower and avoid micromanaging. If you want to really take it up a notch, you should also look into how to lead with context instead of control. This style of leadership can help you maintain order while allowing you to place trust in your team members.
Offer Top Training
Offering training to your team is an often overlooked practice that kills multiple birds with one stone.
Most people want to grow in their careers. By providing training, you are showing that you recognize and respect that, which can increase employee happiness, retention, and productivity.
However, not only does training help to retain employees, but it can also help you fill gaps in your staffing needs.
Research is confirming the growing/alarming shortage of IT skills in the labor market, with two-thirds of companies reporting problems fulfilling staffing and new skills needs.
By training the people you already have, you can avoid having to compete in this environment for new hires.
Be Generous With Gratitude and Praise
If you have read anything at all about leadership, you have probably heard this one before. That’s because it works.
Most people crave a little appreciation, especially if they are working for someone else. If you are finding your team unresponsive and difficult to deal with, there is a good chance the problem is you.
Think about it. Workers spend the majority of their waking lives at work, doing things for other people. This is even more so in the case of IT employees, where working long hours is often the norm—or even the requirement.
Research has shown that appreciation from leaders can increase productivity and boost morale. Yet survey results show that 40% of workers in the US do not feel appreciated. What’s more, further survey analysis indicates that 66% of employees will quit if they feel underappreciated.
And you definitely don’t want that, with talent (or even required skill sets) so notoriously hard to find in the IT sector.
Fortunately, you can prevent this effortlessly, and for free, by the simple act of thanking your team members and praising them for their work.
You’d be surprised how far a kind word will go, especially if someone is struggling with a project. Practice keeping an eye out for opportunities for showing appreciation and praise.
While hard work and laser focus is important in an IT department, so too is leisure. By encouraging your team members to put aside their work for a day or even 15 minutes shows that you value their happiness and don’t see them merely as coding machines.
A great way to institute meaningful breaks from work is to arrange activities such as team-building outings, or mid-morning wellness breaks for stretching, meditation, or even something like table tennis.
Your team’s respites may seem like wasted time, but in reality, taking a break can increase productivity, problem-solving, and moral. All of which are keys areas to optimize.
So, the takeaway here is to get your team away from the keyboards every so often!
Are You Ready to Implement These IT Leadership Strategies?
If you have been struggling with leadership in your role as CIO or IT management, I have some great news for you. Although some people are born leaders, there are many great leaders who got there through trial, error, and training.
Now that you know about the top four most important IT leadership strategies, you are already one step along the path to leadership success.