Leaders are a vistal part of any business. The right leadership inspires employees, keeps everyone moving in the right direction, and ensures a team is equipped to overcome any challenges. While all leaders have challenges to face themselves, from dealing with office conflict to supporting an ever-growing selection of different generations in the workforce, IT leaders face a unique range of issues. In the technology space, modern leaders must move at an increasingly rapid pace, evolving to suit new marketplace trends, while maintaining accuracy, reliability, and high levels of performance.
Managing People In the Tech Sector Is Different
What it means to be an IT leader today is different from what it was 10 years ago. The command-and-control way of thinking has given way to an era of employee empowerment and engagement. Leaders need to understand that no one person can do it all and that the people they surround themselves with and how they manage them are the keys to their success. There aren’t many other areas that evolve as quickly as IT does and that can create unique challenges for any IT leader.
One example that is distinctive to IT, according to Pamela Rucker, chair of the CIO Executive Council’s Executive Women in IT is the need to know your employees. “The pace of change in technology means that you always have some segment of your staff that wants to learn the hottest new tools, and you need to keep them out front so that they stay engaged. On the other hand, you have other leaders who tire of always having to learn new technology and really want to focus on the business aspect of technology delivery. It’s important for you to know how to manage both types of people and have the right blend of staff members to keep you technologically savvy and business-focused,” says Rucker.
Responsibilities Of Leader In Tech
Self-awareness and sympathy, a drive to learn, the ability to delegate, and decisiveness… these are qualities you hear about all the time. But the precursor to all those qualities, the driving force, are the responsibilities of a technology leader.
There are three core responsibilities of technology leadership:
1. Tech expertise.
2. Team support.
What does it mean exactly? Firstly, a leader needs technical excellence to be able to enforce (and then monitor) practices and standards of work adopted and realized by the whole team. Secondly, he should know how to lead a tech team – facilitate and motivate, organise the proper workflow, and provide support so that it can run smoothly. And thirdly, he should be a driving spirit for innovation, trying out new things, finding new solutions, experimentation, and be an example for each team member to follow.
That’s why teams often assign technology leaders based on those merits – as software architects, as team facilitators, or as innovation generators. In practice, it translates into tasks like enacting work guidelines, reviewing code and design, choosing particular tools and frameworks, assigning time, delegating tasks, monitoring team activities, etc. With the innumerable challenges that all IT leaders face today, e.g. fast pace of change, the complexity of systems and processes, budget limitations, and cybersecurity issues, developing a few specific personal skills could better serve productivity.
Key Leadership Skills
Technical leaders are enthusiastic learners with constant endeavors for professional development. A strong leader possesses a holistic vision of a project from the ground up. They are adept with technical details, know business processes, have a clear understanding of the overall project, and efficiently perform management functions.
What Can Prevent A Technology Expert From Becoming A Tech Leader?
Some engineers can be reluctant to develop and leverage the soft skills that leadership positions require. Besides, they can be lacking business knowledge and the ability to translate business tasks into software requirements. Therefore, the path to technical leadership is complicated and combines a vast array of new responsibilities and opportunities, which requires certain sets of hard skills and soft skills.
Communication: The way to achieve communication excellence is by establishing long-term goals. A clear view of the big picture allows for splitting the project into actionable steps. When a large job is divided into a series of smaller tasks, it becomes easier to communicate. Besides, each task should have achievable and measurable goals to motivate the team, give them a sense of progress, and monitor their performance.
Problem-solving and strategic thinking: This skill is crucial for every manager including an IT leader. It can be viewed as an art, as it involves both analytical and creative abilities.
Delegation: Managing large teams and completing a growing number of projects is impossible without delegation. A leader’s responsibility in this regard would include selecting the proper people to cope with everyday tasks. Managing an employee’s workflow efficiently is also akin to art, as it involves knowing the strengths and weaknesses of each team member, identifying the right communication approach and motivation, and keeping employees occupied without overloading. Assigning tasks to those persons that can fulfill them most efficiently, as well as outsourcing the jobs that cannot be properly performed in-house, is a leader’s primary duty.
Project management and crisis management: Another responsibility is planning the project and its timely execution. While keeping in mind a long-term perspective, a leader should adequately manage the team’s time on a daily basis. However, every project has good and bad days. Business life is full of stress and pressure. The core requirements here are staying calm and keeping control.
Technical guidance: As a leader, you’ll have a general vision of a high-level architecture, which you’ll need to translate into technical tasks for your team members. You will additionally motivate them by explaining the reasons behind the technical decisions. You’ll also need to ensure that they implement solutions efficiently.
Monitoring the progress of the team: The optimal way to assess the team’s progress is through the relevant metrics. Tech leaders can utilize a range of engineering metrics for this purpose.
Operational Excellence: There is a myriad of tools that a leader can utilize to measure the performance of a team. Leaders’ responsibilities can include assessing the investment of time and resources on specific projects or managing cycle time and pull request size. A good leader knows how to resort to observability, changing mechanisms, and performance metrics to enhance their team’s productivity.
A set of soft skills is another milestone in the way to developing tech leadership skills. These are not just personal characteristics but rather the way a leader applies them in various situations.
Integrity: This trait includes staying faithful to your principles and to your word. Your main task here is to build trusted relationships with your team. They should be confident in their leader and know they can rely on you regardless of what happens.
Agreeable personality: An efficient leader should know when to be tough and demanding and when – friendly and emphatic. While preserving your authority with the team, you should also be open to discussions, ideas of your team members, and constructive criticism. Such an approach will facilitate an affectionate working environment.
Stability: Apart from staying calm, you should also put effort to reduce stress within your team. The ability to address team burnout and deal with stressful situations is crucial. Successful leaders apply creative ways to minimize stress, engage the team, and raise team spirit. What helps in this regard are extracurricular activities, such as team challenges and sports competitions. They help relieve stress, reinforce internal bonds, and improve communication.
Empathy: This is a particular case of building strong interconnections within the team. Empathy denotes the ability to put yourself in another one’s place and understand their issues. This is an excellent way to develop trusted rapport, allocate tasks within the team in the most efficient manner, and build successful working processes. Furthermore, developing empathy is exceptionally useful for facilitating a conducive corporate culture.
In the world of digital technology, it’s becoming more and more important to have a strong technical team leader. A great leader possesses a specific and unique combination of hard and technical skills, as well as soft skills, to lead a tech organization to success. Great leaders stay curious and don’t fear change. The leaders of today’s tech landscape are quick on their feet to adapt to the ever-changing market and manage their teams effectively in order to optimize processes and take their companies to the next level.