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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.

They Are Decisive
You don't always have the luxury of time. In some situations you will need to make quick decisions that could impact the entire organization. The easiest answer isn't necessarily the right one and a good leader has to be thoughtful of the impact of each decision he/she makes especially when the chips are down. "An IT leader needs to be decisive. They need to make both quality and timely decisions," says Hewes.

They Create a Safe-to-Fail Environment
Creating an atmosphere where employees are encouraged to take chances and are safe to fail gives workers the confidence to try new things and can spur innovation. "Knowing that something good can come out of a failing effort makes people less likely to shy away from difficult projects, and more apt to try something new. I've seen this work time and again," says Rucker.

Creating this type of an environment is important, but it is hard to pull off, according to Hewes who says, "Often times we hear, 'of course, we encourage people to take risks, but we don't get enough of it.' Why? It can be due to the consequences of what happens when something doesn't work. If it is called out in a bad way, people will shy away from risk taking. Now, you don't want people taking risks willy-nilly. Rather, it should be calculated risks in consciously chosen areas. The leader needs to help define the boundaries and act in the right way when a 'failure' happens. This takes vigilance over time," says Hewes."

They Are Adept at Problem Solving
If you've come up through the ranks of IT to be a leader, than you are likely a problem-solver at heart. This is one aspect that people who live and work in IT are pretty good at, according to experts. If that's not you then don't beat yourself up. The key is for the leader to recognize that problem-solving is not his/her strong suit and to rely on the problem solver on the team to rise to the challenge. "People often feel like they need to have all the answers. In reality you just need to know the right questions to ask," says Brodie.

They Create a Collaborative Environment
Many IT pros who climb the ladder to leadership often stop being individual contributors. This means that they need to get their work done through other people. "Strong collaboration skills allow leaders to work with others to exploit synergies and deliver far more than they ever would be capable of delivering alone. Also, I think the leaders that are best at collaboration are those that have invested heavily in developing their internal and external networks. For instance, it's far easier for me to work with people when I haven't let a relationship go cold, instead of dropping in and asking for help when it's only in my best interest," says Rucker.


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