IT leadership as I see it

You’ll never be able to say everything there is to say about leadership in an hour, but the conversation yesterday on Microsoft’s Ignite Your Career Webcast series was pretty rich. We had a panel that discussed leading vs. managing, dealing with tough decisions and how to build trust. There were a few questions from the audience we didn’t manage to tackle, however, and although the rest of the panel may have different views, I’d like to try offering a few thoughts now.

I'd like to hear how the panel manages the mix of detail view vs. high level view. As a team lead, do you dig in and double check all your teams’ work, or assign the tasks and walk away or some balance in the middle? What factors affect this for you? – Troy

I think this is a matter of situational leadership, which I discussed in a previous post. It really depends on what level of commitment and competency the people responsible for a task have demonstrated. Your goal as a leader is not to micromanage but set up the conditions for success, moving to as autonomous and independent a team as possible. The reality, at least as I’ve known it, is that you tend to get your hands dirty in projects more often than you’d like. Other leaders refuse to do this, and simply replace people who can’t handle the delegated task with someone who can. Either works, but I think moral becomes a factor. I think the balance comes from knowing as much about what’s going on operationally as possible and only interfering if it’s part of an education exercise – to prevent staff from requiring your involvement the next time.

A common belief is that the best way to go ‘up,’ is to get ‘out.’ That is to say, the best way to promote yourself is to look outside your current organization. How much truth does this panel see in this? – Mark

I’m not sure what the objective would be here, or the outcome. If you’re trying to raise your profile as a leader, it makes sense to be a part of the conference circuit, to connect one-on-one with customers or partners, and make good use of social networking tools. But leadership is about more than promoting yourself. It’s about promoting others who might not otherwise get recognized, who need an opportunity to show what they’re capable of, and creating connections between different parts of an organization that wouldn’t otherwise know each other.

How can non-IT professionals i.e. people interested in Technological Development but without specific advanced technical skills, contribute to IT companies? – Nikola

When I hear “IT companies,” I think vendors, and obviously there are plenty of people with more of a business and operational background that make those companies function successfully. If you’re talking about how non-IT people can contribute to an enterprise IT strategy, the answer is simple: become very good about needs analysis and requirements documentation. Help IT departments understand how they can articulate the business benefits behind technology investments. Don’t always come to IT people when you’re in a bad mood.

What do you consider a convincing answer for the question “are you a leader?” – Irina


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