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16 traits of great IT leaders

Rich Hein | Oct. 24, 2013
If you want to succeed as an IT leader, you have to develop a set of traits that will serve you and those around you. Industry leaders and career experts share their thoughts on what behaviors make an IT leader great.

"The demands of leadership roles often make it easy keep your head down and focus on solving problems for your organization. There's always another challenge or another threat, and you can build an entire image around solving problems and managing risk. Unfortunately, if you continue to do that, you will find yourself behind the eight ball, because the world continues to move and develop, even if you do not," says Rucker.

How should you get started on the road to being a better leader? Robert Hewes, senior partner at Camden Consulting Group, recommends targeting a particular area where you feel like you need to grow such as communication, strategic thinking or conflict and decision-making just to name four. Then finding a venue to make it happen, whether it's college courses, reading a book, going to seminars or whatever it takes. "Professional development is key in this fast-paced world. Honing and expanding one's capabilities should be ingrained. It is a matter of staying value-added," says Hewes.

They Work Through Other People and Delegate
The scope and depth of IT means that no one person can know it all. IT leaders need to surround themselves with people who complement their strengths and weaknesses. "Working through others is the only way to scale. If you don't make this shift, you will hamper yourself and more importantly the entire organization. If this applies to you, you should intently and intensely focus on making directing and delegating a key change for you," says Hewes.

They Have Great Communication Skills
Communication is fundamental skill needed to be a great leader or manager. As an IT leader you will likely work with people from all departments and walks of life. You must be able to clearly articulate your message.

Effective leaders know how to gauge the situation they're in and determine what and how they need to communicate. They master their presentation style, their email, their negotiation skills and even their water-cooler conversation because they realize that communication is a part of their brand, and sends a message about their ability," says Rucker.

You can't have great communication skills if you're not a good listener. "Remember, communication is a two-way street and listening is as important as "telling." Great IT leaders listen incredibly well and ask great questions," says Hewes.

They Are Authentic
"Leaders must know their own personality, style and values, and deliberately choose to lead with those instead of trying to be a poor imitation of someone they admire," says Rucker. Trying to play the part of a great leader is both exhausting and distracting, so it's better to be yourself.

"The most important aspect of my leadership style is to be myself versus what a textbook CIO might be. And while my team might have to put up with my sixth grade sense of humor, it means that I bring a positive attitude and a passion to work for the company, my team and my role and I hope that it's infectious for my team, " says Brodie.


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