10 Ways to Enhance your IT Leadership Skills

 Sep 20, 2018

10 WAYS TO GROW YOUR IT LEADERSHIP SKILLS

Effectively managing an IT department requires expertise in a number of areas, from understanding the work environment, to developing well-honed interpersonal skills. As an IT leader you must constantly be improving your craft. What does your professional journey look like as an IT professional? We’ve listed ten topics for you and will explain why these are among the most important things to consider in your journey from individual contributor, to IT manager, to CIO and beyond…

These first three areas are not skill-based, they’re knowledge-based. Your understanding of these topics gives you the knowledge to make informed decisions, the perspective to prioritise scarce resources, and the business acumen to be a respected and “business first and technology a close second” executive or leader. These topics are:

1.    MIND YOUR IT BUSINESS
The “Business of IT” is your ability to perform, oversee and/or measure the activities performed by the IT function. This includes project management, production operations, vendor management, data management, client/user support and other IT-related tasks. Of course, it’s impossible to be an expert in all of these areas, but you should have an understanding of what they are, how they work, and how they all interconnect.

2.    UNDERSTAND YOUR COMPANY’S BUSINESS AND INDUSTRY
Leaders within IT can no longer just be the “head techies”, they must now be business executives who understand how to lead a technology-based organisation. It’s this understanding that will let you think of technology in business terms, thus giving you the opportunity to help define your company’s business strategy, not just execute its technology components once the decisions are made.

3.    KEEP AHEAD OF LEADING IT TRENDS AND TECHNOLOGIES
It’s this knowledge that transforms you from being a Subject Matter Expert (SME) to a thought leader helping drive innovation, creativity and even potentially company-wide digital transformation.

4.    BECOME PROFICIENT AT GENERAL MANAGEMENT TASKS
This category stands alone. To be a strong IT leader, you must first be a competent IT manager with the ability to successfully perform the general managerial tasks performed by all managers in all parts of the company. These tasks include delegation, prioritisation, scheduling, hiring, giving performance reviews, teambuilding, staff motivation, running meetings, budgeting and other related activities. If you are not seen as competent in these standard manager activities, you will most likely never be given the opportunity to expand your existing level of responsibility. Your ability to perform these types of tasks is the bread and butter for professional leadership and upward mobility. The New Horizons Managerial Leadership program teaches about organisational leadership and might just be what you need to grow your leadership skills.

Working effectively with others helps you maximize project/business success, maximizes client/user satisfaction, helps you attain needed resources and builds strong long-term internal, vendor, stakeholder and senior management relationships. These areas of needed expertise are:

5.    WORK ON YOUR COMMUNICATIONS
By interpersonal communication, we’re referring to the combination of active listening, formulating quality questions, one-on-one conversations, public speaking, and other related items. As you move up the management ranks, you move from hands-on tactical, to organisational and strategic oriented. Therefore, the higher you go the more important interpersonal communication becomes. Training in Essential Communication Skills will help you understand yourself better and will help you become a more effective communicator.

6.    LEAD THE CHANGE
IT by its nature is an internal, company change agent. Every new project that is completed or software package that is implemented, causes a change in someone’s workflow and/or job responsibilities. As an IT leader, you will need to learn how you can effectively manage that change and how to best support the people undergoing the change. Correctly managing this change can significantly increases client/user satisfaction & process/software adoption. Plus it can enhance your professional reputation! Get on top of Change Management with a one-day course.

7.    UNLOCK YOUR CREATIVITY AND INNOVATE
Innovation in IT isn’t simply sitting back and thinking deep thoughts. It’s also forming those thoughts in a way that facilitates successful creation, implementation and improvement of a key aspects of your business. Innovation in IT can range from new technical processes to completely new hardware. At the end of the day, it is important to focus on why these changes are necessary, such aas to reduce costs, enhance productivity or any other business value. 

Innovation and creative thinking is also the catalyst behind digital transformation. Creative solutions to complex problems can make the difference between a successful transformation or a digital disaster. Your ability to provide these creative solutions could even highlight you as a strategic thinker within a company and give you a seat at the decision making table.

8.    CONFLICT RESOLUTION AND DIFFICULT CONVERSATIONS
Conflict can be caused by several key factors; data/information, interest over scarce resources, personal values and beliefs, interpersonal relationships and organizational structure. Because of its role within the company, IT can create issues related to all of these listed categories. As a result, if you’re able to prevent and/or mitigate conflict as an IT manager, it has a major effect on your ability to work with others and complete required tasks. Taking some time to learn How to Handle Difficult People will help you in managing conflicts in your work environment.  

9.    STRENGTHEN YOUR NEGOTIATION SKILLS
IT managers negotiate with vendors on price, delivery dates, service levels, and on a myriad of other topics. They also negotiate within their business on budget or software implimentation. As a result, negotiation skills are a key element of both IT organisational success and individual professional career development. As Chester Karrass said: “You don’t get what you deserve. You get what you negotiate.”

10.    INFLUENCE AND PERSUADE
Finally, yet importantly… Influencing and Persuasion.  These are key ingredients in successfully performing all of the other soft skills that we’ve previously listed. Influence, in this context, is your ability to convince co-workers that your expert opinion is the best option. Strength of character, personality and personal drive can all effect your influence, however understanding the correct approach to effective persuasion can make the difference between forcing someone to agree with you or helping someone understand you. 

In summary, as you move from individual contributor to IT manager to CIO, your job becomes less transactional and task-oriented and more strategic and communication oriented. The sooner you enhance your business knowledge, strategic thinking and interpersonal communication skills, the sooner you set yourself up for future career advancement. It’s your job to take charge of your professional career.

Check out the full list of Leadership and Development courses from New Horizons to build, strengthen and enhance your IT leadership skills. 

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About the Author:

New Horizons  

New Horizons is Australia's leading corporate training provider, and has been educating business professionals for over 15 years in the areas of Professional Development, Microsoft Office & Adobe Applications, and IT Technical. Our aim through this blog is to bring you relevant stories, articles, and tips & tricks that can help you to improve your skills and productivity in the workplace. Our expert trainers will also be posting their own articles from time to time, so be sure to keep an eye out.

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