How to Take on the Role of an IT Leader
You’ve been immersed in the IT field for several years now, and in terms of technical mastery, you’re excellent at what you do. When you face a programming or troubleshooting challenge, you handle the issue in front of you with speed, competence, and style. But while you may have what it takes to be strong employee, are you ready to step into the role of a leader?
If you’re like most first time managers (in every industry, not just IT), the answer is probably no. In the early stages, leadership often comes with struggle and a steep learning curve, especially for employees who have excelled at following orders and doing great work (instead of giving orders and assigning that work). Here are a few tips that can help make the transition to management a little smoother.
Know Yourself and Your Leadership Style
Learn your leadership style, respect it, and be honest with yourself and with your employees. If you simply aren’t a micromanager, or you need to look over shoulders to make sure things are on track, or you don’t enjoy raising your voice, or you can’t help but raise your voice when things go wrong, recognize these traits and shape your leadership strategy around them. Don’t try to be someone you aren’t.
Lead With a Vision
Before you take the wheel and start leading your team, know where you’re headed. Long term goals with clear milestones are important for lasting, meaningful success. If you don’t know where you’d like to see your team in a set number of days, weeks, or years, think carefully before you step into the driver’s seat.
Present Benchmarks and Goals to Your Employees
Once you’ve established long term and short term goals for the team, share these goals, and explain why they matter to the success of the business as a whole. The best way to keep your employees engaged is by keeping them in the loop. Before you present them with a challenge or a difficult project, let them know why this work matters.
Be a Better Listener and Communicate Constantly
If you expect your teams to listen carefully to your instructions and explanations, you need to listen ten times harder. Keep an open door policy, especially at the beginning of your leadership tenure, and encourage your teams to come to you with issues, complaints, questions, recommendations, or requests for resources that can help them excel at their jobs. While you’re listening carefully, provide detailed feedback and check in frequently to make sure all the members of your group are on the same page.
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