We had a great group of panellists to talk about leadership on the last of the Ignite Your Career series Webcasts I’ve been co-hosting with Microsoft Canada. There was an IT director, a startup CEO, a Microsoft senior exec and a career coach. All of them talked about the power of leadership, about active listening and pulling a team together. We did not talk nearly enough about metrics.
At one point I asked the group how they measure the results of their leadership efforts, and how those in the Webcast audience could identify the key performance indicators of their own attempts at developing leadership qualities. It was a hard question, but a necessary one, because IT managers are like everyone else in being judged on their results.
Leadership deals with a lot of intangible qualities, obviously, but just because something isn’t an exact science doesn’t mean we should give up on it. One obvious approach is to look at the overall success of an organization, but our panel stressed that leadership activities are not necessarily tied directly to business activities. They are something that happen over and above getting the job done, satisfying customers or increasing value to shareholders.
I can only talk about some of the things I use to measure leadership. They include the following:
- How often do coworkers come forth with ideas, and how excited are they to bring them to me?
- To what extent have I moved from day-to-day oversight of a task or a project to merely getting progress reports? Managers oversee things. Leaders articulate what’s needed and let others move things forward.
- What kinds of questions am I hearing from colleagues – questions about how I can solve problems, or questions that explore new opportunities for continuous improvement?
- How do the actions of staff and fellow employees reflect the priorities I, as a leader, value? Where are the gaps?
As I said in today’s Webcast, I don’t think a lot of people expect to see a great deal of leadership come out of the IT department. That’s seen as a role for CFOs, VPs or perhaps sales people. Yet it’s technology that empowers people to communicate, collaborate and better understand information. IT managers have all the tools to make the visions of a great leader come to pass. It’s time to start surprising the enterprise with the calibre of leadership their IT departments potentially contain.