Wednesday, Mar 26 2014

Boss or Leader: What IT Manager are You?

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Theodore Roosevelt said: “People ask the difference between a leader and a boss. The leader leads, and the boss drives.” This is an essential distinction for people in charge at any level—if you want to be a great leader, you can’t hog the wheel.

But what is leading? While there are many different styles of leadership, they all typically have some things in common. Here are some of the characteristics that great IT leaders often share.

Leaders are not islands

Some bosses are convinced they know everything, and they have no need to consult others. However, considering the complexities and the scope of the IT field, it’s virtually impossible for one person to know it all.

That’s why great IT leaders surround themselves with reliable people who are able to complement their strengths, and shore up their weaknesses. The ability to know when you need outside expertise, and to delegate intelligently, is an essential trait for a leader.

Leaders are two-way channels

Bosses broadcast. Leaders communicate. Excellent communication skills are a must for any successful IT leader—and you need to be able to both give and take feedback from people at all levels, in every department, from many walks of life.

Many of the people IT leaders work with are not fluent in tech. As a leader, you have to clearly articulate your messages in ways anyone can understand. This ability to communicate should apply to your emails and phone calls, your presentation style, your negotiations, and even your casual conversations.

Leaders allow their people to fail

While a boss may not tolerate mistakes, shortcomings, or failures, a leader will often encourage them. There can be no innovation without risk, and great IT leaders strive for a safe-to-fail environment where team members have the confidence to try new things, without fear of negative repercussions from management.

Of course, it can be difficult to create a balanced environment that encourages calculated risks, but not wild shots in the dark. You may need to experiment with boundaries to strike the right tone for innovation.

Leaders are often imitated, but never duplicated

Bosses might attempt to copy someone else’s successful managerial style, with mixed results. Leaders understand that authenticity can’t be forced, and remaining true to your own style, values, and personality is the only path to true success.

You may be surprised to learn that being yourself is not only less exhausting, but also far more effective. Playing the role of a leader can be draining. When you are genuine and honest, you’ll find that leadership comes naturally—and your team will be happy to follow your example.

What traits do you believe great IT leaders have? Share your thoughts in the comments! If you are an IT manager looking for recruiting agencies in Silicon Valley, contact our team today.