A question that I often get asked by both new and old IT leaders is “how can I become a better manger?” The question is a simple one that has complex answers. What all IT leaders want is to become one of those leaders who has the ability to get all of our employees to light up when we show up. We want to be able to get them excited about us and about their jobs. How hard could that be?
Bad news here, it’s actually fairly difficult to transform yourself into one of those very charismatic leaders if you are not already one. If you can’t cause staff to naturally respond to you, then sometimes we try to make self-conscious efforts to display leadership traits. This can backfire on you and it can come across as forced. This is not going to get you where you want to be.
Daniel Goleman and Richard Boyatzis have written an article in the Harvard Business Review in which they report that if you really want to become a better IT leader, then you are going to have to undertake the hard work of actually changing your behavior.
What these researchers are really talking about is that to really break through what is holding you back as an IT manager, you are going to have to become socially smarter. We’re not talking about MBA book knowledge here, but rather learning to interact with people better.
As an example of this, consider the case of a manager who just didn’t know when to back off on an issue. She received feedback that this was her problem and she made several social changes. First she started anticipating how people would react to her. Next, she came up with different ways to present her opinion or information in a way that would not be so aggressive. Finally, she came up with a program that would allow her to change.
Another good way to develop the social skills that you need as an IT manger is to spend time with an IT leader who does a good job of managing. What will happen is that your brain will start to mirror what this leader is doing and this will allow you to become a better leader.
It’s important for you to realize that your brain is constantly creating new neural networks. This means that the way you are is not the way that you will be. You are not a prisoner of your genes or previous management experiences. You can change and improve if you are willing to put the time and energy in to do so.
One final note, developing the social skills that you need to be a great IT leader is especially important when a crisis situation arises. Business conditions like a take over, merger, or even layoffs can create a great deal of stress among IT workers. IT Leaders who have good social skills can keep the team together and get high performance out of them even during times like this.
Do you feel that you have the social skills needed to be a great IT leader? What skills are you still lacking? Do you have a plan for developing these needed skills? Do You have an IT leader who has the skills that you need and can you work with them to find out how they use them? Leave me a comment and let me know what you are thinking.