IT Manager Leadership: Two Ways To Lead When You’re Not In Charge

by drjim on December 8, 2011

Image Credit IT Leaders Need To Show Teams Which Way To Go

IT Leaders Need To Show Teams Which Way To Go

When I work with IT Leaders who are looking for ways to get that next promotion, I tell them that they are going to need to demonstrate leadership. This is an easy thing for me to say and a very hard thing for them to do. Complicating matters even more is the fact that IT managers are finding themselves drafted onto team that they are just members of, not leaders of. What’s an IT manager to do?

It’s Always All About Goals

When an IT manager is told to work as part of a team but not told to manage it, it can be easy to treat this as a low priority task if you aren’t appointed to run the show. I mean really, you’ve got other tasks that you are responsible for and you’re running the show there.

However, that would be a mistake on your part. It turns out that in real life senior management are often put on teams that they may not have been told to manage. If you can demonstrate the ability to work with and to even lead this type of team, you’ll be demonstrating skills that will make you a candidate for a promotion.

The first thing that you need to do when you become part of a team that you are not leading is to encourage the team to take the time to write down what they are hoping to achieve. Step up and lead the discussion as the team tries to clarify what their shared objectives are.

To Get The Right Answers, You Need To Know How To Think Correctly

Teams can be a confusing mess. There are all sorts of people and everybody thinks that they know how to solve the problem that the team has been asked to take care of. More often than not the first team meeting dissolves into a set of isolated conversations and not much gets accomplished.

You have an opportunity to show leadership in this situation. You can help the team actually accomplish something by showing them how to apply systematic thinking to the problem at hand.

Instead of just randomly breaking off pieces of the problem and then attempting to do a deep dive and come up with a solution for it, instead take a step back. Start by making sure that all of the needed data has been gathered.

Next take the time to determine how the current situation was created. Once you get group agreement on that move on and identify a set of possible solutions. It’s going to be much easier to get the team to select a workable solution from a set of possible solutions instead of trying to build solutions from the ground up with only various parts of the required data.

What Does All Of This Mean For You

IT managers will always be finding themselves in situations where they have not explicitly been put in charge providing management to a team. When this happens to you, there are two ways that you can deal with it: give up and complain about the situation or choose to demonstrate your leadership skills.

In order to show leadership and how you can manage a team, you need to start by creating a set of clear objectives that the group can work towards – goals if you like. This will provide direction for the team. Next, show the team how to think in a systematic fashion. Lay out the challenges, identify the constraints, and then start to identify solutions.

Leadership is a tricky thing. It’s not something that is handed to you, rather you have to earn it. IT managers who master the ability to create goals that a team will accept and then show the team how to think systematically will be one step closer to earning the leadership of that team.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that you should create team goals by yourself or with the rest of the team?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

When I’m working with new IT Managers I often run into the buddy / boss problem. It’s perfectly understandable that any person newly placed into an IT Manager position would like to establish a positive relationship with the people that they are managing. This is all well and good, but it’s all too easy for an IT Manager to go too far – you can be a boss, but you can’t be a buddy.

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