What does it mean to be a good leader? There is no single right answer but if you want to manage and lead your IT department effectively, you need a combination of exemplary technological and supervisory skills. You need to facilitate departmental operations, delegate tasks and understand industry challenges, all the while keeping an eye toward the future.
Because technology changes so rapidly, you and your team need to be flexible and dynamic. If you are, you will be prepared to meet critical business needs and succeed in IT management. Here are 6 ways you can become a valuable and effective IT leader:
1. Assemble the Right Personnel
As CIO, CTO, or IT Director, you need to develop and implement effective tech solutions that are aligned with your organization’s business goals. To do this you need a team that you can trust to carry out your objectives, hit deadlines, and reach milestones. If you learn your staff’s strengths, areas of improvement, stress levels, and their own personal goals, your team will become a well-oiled machine.
2. Meet Deadlines and Manage Expectations
On any given IT project, you may encounter myriad complications. As an IT leader, however, it’s up to you to anticipate the technological and business aspects of every project. You must manage expectations from the start. The CEO may want your project complete before the start of the fiscal year, but you’ll need to measure your resources against reality. You will need to harness the strengths of the staff so the right people work to solve the right problems, in a timely manner. It is also imperative that you measure your team’s work in milestones so you know when a project has the potential to miss a mark. If you do need to change course, you must advise your team of the new direction and let all relevant stakeholders know if tasks, timelines, and goals need to be revised.
3. Use Checks and Balances
As an IT leader, you live in a high stakes environment. Without a solid IT infrastructure, the tasks you need to accomplish within your organization could literally grind to a halt. This is a high-stakes environment where you need a well-developed system of organizational and technological checks and balances. You need security measures in place that will protect hardware, software, data and entire systems. That will likely include some basics like secure passwords, dual authentication methodologies and proper firewalls and virus protection, but the more sensitive the data you handle, the more sophisticated your technology needs to be. Build multiple layers of protection.
4. Communicate Clearly and Often
Good communication means you and your staff are held accountable, trust each other, and strive to instill positive morale in the workplace. If you want to promote in-person communication, consider an office revamp to remove cubicles and install open tables; if you want to rely on email communication, make sure everyone is on the same page in terms of style and tone, and that subject lines are clear and concise; if you want to try new platforms like apps, make sure they are team-oriented and have the ability to integrate other useful apps for social media or office suites. In today’s world, good communication is all about streamlining.
5. Stay Curious
Sometimes it is not enough to just be an expert in technology and IT management. To separate yourself, your ideas, your team, and your organization from the competition, be curious and think outside the box. According to Harvard Business Review, individuals with a high curiosity quotient are more likely to achieve “higher levels of intellectual investment and knowledge acquisition over time, especially in formal domains” such as science and technology. Curious people are also better equipped to deal with nuanced issues, an important quality given how quickly technology evolves and how much information is generated. Perhaps most important, curious people are willing to try new things, which means fresh ideas and potentially large payoffs for strategic and appropriate risks.
6. Don’t Overthink
As a leader in both the business and tech worlds, you need to be decisive. Sometimes the worst thing you can do is overthink things; this has been known in the professional world for decades as analysis paralysis. Too much information has been shown scientifically to stifle the creative process, according to Scientific American. To avoid the analysis paralysis pitfall realize that it is ok if you do not hit perfection, and often it works to your benefit. Instead try to satisfy all the requirements of a task and meet the necessary criteria. Limit and prioritize your options, and always keep the main objective in mind. All of this will enable you to act swiftly without second guessing yourself.
Tulane University School of Professional Advancement has designed our online Master of Professional Studies in Information Technology and Management program to teach you how to effectively manage and lead your department. Our combination of tech- and business-focused courses with a “Managing the IT Department” capstone will teach you how to integrate technology throughout a company to respond to critical commercial needs. Find out how you can apply to Tulane’s MPS in IT Management program to be on your way to becoming an IT innovator.