An efficiently performing IT department can be the driving force behind every organisation. The IT team may not be as visible as other teams, but their importance to the smooth functioning of the company cannot be overlooked. A well-led IT department allows an organisation to react effectively to day-to-day issues and drives its future technological requirements. The old image of an IT professional is that of a somewhat introverted but highly technical employee. It is important to remember that in this modern world of commerce, the IT department must be well-led by inspirational leaders so that its staff can be motivated and empowered by to bring out the best in the team. Here are some key ways to ensure that your company's IT team promotes effective leadership throughout its structure and performs at its best.
Failure is a steppingstone to success
As Robert F. Kennedy once said, "Only those who dare to fail can ever achieve greatly." Fear of failure in IT department culture can stifle creativity and lower morale. When complex IT projects are undertaken, there are often significant potential for problems and issues to arise during the process. By having a culture that recognises that failures can happen and can be valuable lessons learned, the concept of failure becomes a route to success and improved decision-making. Good leadership recognises that failure is an important step to future success and that it should not be viewed as toxic. As you can read here, some of the most prominent figures in history and modern life experienced failures in their careers but used these as steppingstones to success. Failure provides some of life's most important lessons, and IT projects or processes that succeed are often built on the knowledge gained from previous failures.
Ongoing education is key
Few departments require as much up-to-date training and knowledge as the IT department. Regardless of the business, the IT systems that underpin it are constantly evolving, and leadership in the team must stress the importance of ongoing training and lifelong learning to its staff. A good leader will also be able to spot talent emerging in the team. Perhaps the data analyst who showed superb insight in the bespoke reports that were developed would reach their potential by undertaking a data science online masters program of study? Effective leader offers ongoing training to staff so that the organisation and the individual benefit. In a large IT department, the challenge is to offer a mix of mandatory training to ensure that core skills shared by the team are regularly updated and bespoke training packages for those who are specialised or looking to boost valuable skills in a more focused field. Leadership courses should also be a core component of training available to the team to ensure that leadership knowledge and ability are embedded throughout the team. If one strong leader retires or moves to pastures new, there should always be suitable candidates in-house to fill this void.
Passion must be visible
An effective leader will be passionate about the work the department does and how it helps the organisation achieve its goals. When leaders can truly communicate this passion and the purpose (of what some may be considered mundane tasks), it can inspire a workforce to give every task their best. A leader's passion should be an example for the rest of the team to emulate and should also lead by example with a strong focus on work rate and "going the extra mile." Leaders should regularly give feedback to the team on the importance of the work completed and how it fits in with the organisation's overall goals. When every team member can see how their work has been adopted across the business, the motivational aspects are tangible. Regular communication is key, along with a passion for leadership. When schedules are busy and projects are numerous, it can detrimentally affect a team's morale. This is where a leader who leads by example shines. Seeing leadership pitch in or assist with project work can lift the spirits of a team and demonstrate that words are backed up by actions. Passion and dedication to the job go hand in hand for successful leaders.
Supplementary reading: How To Find Meaning In Your Work
Make the organisation aware of the department's value
While an effective leader educates their workers on how tasks completed fit with organisational goals, they should also be actively promoting the value of work undertaken to Senior Management and Board level executives. Upper management may not always be aware of the breadth and complexity of the work undertaken by the IT department and how it underpins the firms' strategic goals. A well-run IT department can illustrate the value of its activities and projects with regular senior management bulletins and reports showing the impact of tasks on the organisation. For example, an update to the company's website may increase satisfaction amongst the clients, or intelligent SEO strategies may generate more traffic to the website, increasing revenues. An effective IT leader will be able to communicate success effectively to the organisation's key stakeholders. This will ensure that senior staff understands the value of the department and its vital role in achieving corporate goals.
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While every leader should share traits such as a passion for the work undertaken, resilience, and a strong work ethic, no two leaders are the same. It is vital for any leader to know their specific leadership style as it will allow them to understand both the strengths and weaknesses of their traits. It is also important to communicate with other senior figures in the organisation. If you need to present the benefits of an upcoming IT project to a stakeholder who is low on charisma and "the big picture" but is concerned with figures and data, then you should alter your pitch accordingly and stress the facts and numbers. Conversely, if you are meeting with another leader who has a laissez-faire style, they may not be as obsessed with the details of the project and more focused on its overall benefits.
Read more: The Purposeful Leader
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