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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.

Collaboration is one of "those skills that technical people can look down upon," according to Hewes. However, many great ideas and decisions come about because great minds worked together on a problem. That is collaboration. "To push on it - and say why? Simply put, no one has all the answers, especially to the most difficult challenges. A great IT leader will encourage collaboration at the right moments," says Hewes.

A Sense of Humor
Morale and productivity are closely related. As a leader it's your job to motivate your troops and give them the tools they need to be effective, and a sense of humor can go a long way towards doing that. A joke from the boss can make difficult times less tense and help foster a feeling that you are all in it together.

"I have noticed that some IT folks can take life a little too seriously. It's important to loosen up sometimes. The most important traits are to respect others and to have a good sense of humor. Also, a leader should demonstrate that he/she has outside interests because it is important to show a healthy balance of work, outside activities and family," says Boardman.

They Have Integrity
Integrity is defined as the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles. People are only as good as their word and as a leader all eyes are on you. You've got to do what you say and be able to admit when you're wrong.

"Leaders must display a strong moral character, such that their teams and peers can believe in them and trust what they say. When enterprise transformations and people's careers are at stake, everyone needs to know that you aren't operating in your own best interest, but that you are truthful in the things you say," says Rucker.

Part of integrity is accountability. If you want to be a great IT leader you've got to be responsible for your actions and hold other people accountable for theirs. You can't play favorites or pass the buck.

They Are Empathetic
A great leader has to be able to metaphorically put himself/herself in others people places to understand their point of view. Doing so will give you a deeper connection into both your employee's and customer's needs.

"Empathy is like walking in someone else's shoes and understanding what the root cause is to get to the heart of the problem instead of just providing band-aid solutions. This allows us to provide a solution that has true value to the organization," says Brodie.

They Know Their Customers
"You've really got to have the mindset that everyone is a customer," says Reeg. That means whether you're providing an internal tool to the marketing department or building a customer-facing mobile app, you've got to understand what your customers need and what they expect.


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