So You Want To Be An IT Leader?

If you’re an experienced IT Subject-Matter-Expert interested in adding a management/leadership role to your professional skillset, CIO Simon Stapleton has written a useful 24 page e-book on:

The Essence of IT Leadership by Simon Stapleton:

IT Leadership SimonStapleton

I downloaded and read it in about thirty minutes and here are some comments on what I’ve learned, written from a (self) career coaching perspective.

The most important lesson, like all good resources, is that you can enjoy reading it and yet nothing much will change for you without testing out at least one nugget of wisdom into your own life/career situation.

As an example, some of you may have read Steven Covey’s bestseller, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. I know I did, some years ago. Several times.
OK. Now go ahead and write down those seven habits from memory 🙂

Oh dear! This is what I mean by application of received knowledge. I can remember off the top of my head about three or four of Steven’s habits but unless I put all seven of them on an index card that I carry around with me each day, and then periodically decide to look at them and apply at least one into my daily experience, I’m wasting my time.

(Your mileage may vary. As a career coach, I’m well aware that people learn and experience in different ways. However, I also recognize application and effort when I see it!)

Simon begins his book with a section on Know Your Role As a Leader. He acknowledges that there are heaps of books out there on the manager versus leader dichotomy, and so cuts to the chase with some advice on playing the leadership role and how followers and leaders interact in different situations.

Simon focuses on how the power and responsibility of being in a leadership role presents an effective way of getting things done i.e. the leadership role implies others are prepared to;follow you, whether or not you have also been given formal managerial authority.

This readiness to assume responsibility is a theme that runs through the entire e-book, and I can sense how valuable such a belief is to Simon’s view of career success in the IT profession.

Like most useful habits, building a new one can feel awkward for a while and you may even be going against the career inertia of others. But, as a constructive character attribute, the willingness to volunteer for additional responsibility is something that Simon notes is the key to assuming authority.

I agree, and only wish I’d done more of it.
In fact, the most effective managers and leaders in my experience have been those who actively walked this talk. In some senses, I believe authority (from peers and subordinates) is as much earned, as assumed, by the holder.)

There are some excellent summaries of how and when to use power effectively and encourage you to reflect over your personal beliefs around management power before getting caught up in a blame game for the apparent power abuses you may see others making in your workplace.

Also check out the No Excuses section. Well worth reading though I’d say, in my experience, that this requires WIIFM (what’s in it for me) buy-in from a significant number of staff to be relevant in the multinational corporate world. But to heck with waiting for the herd, start with yourself and it will stand you in good stead, especially if you one day choose to work for yourself, detached from the company teat.

So what am I taking away from Simon’s ebook? Three things.

  1. Assume Responsibility (Your tech experience/ability PLUS leadership skills stand a better chance of being relevant and marketable in a career environment where global labour talent pools are being tapped. Like it or not, this is currently a reality for almost anyone seeking an IT position.)

  2. Practice The Helicopter Mind (You’ll have to read that section and ponder a little on your style.)

For Vol 2, I’d be interested in some discussion of coaching and mentoring as it relates to managers/leaders in the Tech world.

Good job, Simon!