The best technologists are often rewarded with a managerial promotion. It can be an exciting yet unnerving transition for many who may think they are not natural leaders. However, I believe leadership traits can be acquired and improved over time with practice, and one does not have to be born with leadership qualities.
It is indeed an irony that the skills that got a top technologist a well-deserved promotion won’t be necessarily helping them to succeed in their new role. They will have to learn new skills for the leadership job. So how do they learn the needed skills for success, and what’s the quickest way to master those skills?
There are way too many leadership concepts, articles and books available around us. Is it possible to read and master all those concepts before accepting the new role? The answer is unequivocally no; rather, it has to be a continual learning process. But even then, you don’t have to read or master every leadership principle to become successful.
Resisting the desire to evade change will be heavily tested in the new role. Getting out of one’s comfort zone and being at ease with uncomfortable things will be required to achieve success. It may sound daunting, but being a levelheaded person with a rational thought process who can learn to apply some common sense in decision-making can make one shine as a leader.
I thought it would be helpful to focus on several words that begin with the letter “I” that a leader who’s transitioning from a technical contributor to a leadership position would be wise to keep in mind. While they won’t guarantee success, embracing these five simple I’s can help a new leader make a smoother transition into their new role.
It all begins with integrity. To be well-respected in an organization as a leader, one must possess integrity, which serves as an integral part of one’s character. A good leader should be authentic, able to walk the walk and talk the talk, and always have the best interests of the organization in mind.
A leader should not make decisions that benefit them for personal or career gains and jeopardize the greater interest of the company. Being honest, making fair decisions and doing the right thing for the organization is expected from a quality leader.
Inclusion is not only restricted to bringing in diverse talent in the workforce when recruiting; rather, it should resonate in the day-to-day aspects of leadership as well. A true leader should be inclusive of partners, peers and stakeholders in all major initiatives. Doing things in a siloed fashion does not work in large enterprises — nor does it win the trust and support of partners, which, by extension, is critical to the success of any program.
A good leader should include others in general discussions in order to ensure there is a certain level of diversity of thought and to help capture tribal knowledge. Being inclusive is the key to winning the trust and confidence of one’s team and partners. Final decision-making authority is on the leader, but including others to weigh in on various options is extremely important for building allies and having success in any type of leadership position.
Nobody likes a leader who micromanages. Most people, especially in the tech sector, desire to work with a certain level of independence in order to achieve creative satisfaction. Money is not always the primary motivating factor to attract and retain top talent. As a leader, one should empower his or her team and give the necessary independence to do their job effectively. This way leaders can groom their teams for the next level of leadership by empowering them to make the right decisions for the company and avoid decision paralysis by eliminating themselves as leaders as the center of dependency for every decision.
As a leader, one must be involved enough to know the macro-level details happening in and around the team. Being involved and having the data ready to share with upper management always helps with building up credibility. It also ensures the concept of “trust but verify” is fully leveraged in the organization because the leader is giving independence to their delegates while at the same time keeping a tab on the work to ensure things follow the right path for the desired outcome.
This is a must-have trait for every leader. At the very least, a good leader should aspire to have the power of influence to earn respect from the team. Showing authority or other intimidating approaches don’t necessarily work with employees. When it comes to getting work done that requires employees to go above and beyond a role’s defined expectation, influential leaders can help motivate in order to get the job done as opposed to folks who follow an authoritarian style. Displaying integrity, building up trust and having a sense of empathy can certainly help in establishing one’s influence over a team. Once a certain level of influence is established, a team should have full confidence that the leader is doing the right thing for the organization.
Becoming a technology manager is a major change in one’s career. The five I’s of integrity, influence, independence, involvement and inclusion can help with that transition.