How IT Time Lords are regenerating their leadership skills

11/01/20184 Minute Read

Since 1963, Doctor Who has regenerated into 12 unique forms. It takes mere moments for these Time Lords to regenerate into a completely new life. While most IT pros don’t have the esteemed privilege of fighting Daleks in a TARDIS, this continual reinvention has some important lessons in IT leadership development. For IT leaders and aspiring executives, assuming an entirely distinct form every few years could be the best hope of long-term survival.

There’s no doubt about it: Tech moves fast. As of 2016, 15 percent of all jobs in Toronto were based in the tech space, with the creation of 51,000 new jobs in technology since 2010. But Canadians aren’t worried—even though 62 percent surveyed believe that “technology will continue to disrupt the economy.”

IT leadership development

A study by Robert Half found that the most effective managers are likely to prize inventiveness, creativity, and vision. In other words, today’s IT pros are regenerating like a Time Lord.

Change in the IT industry and potential for disruption are hard to predict, but IT leadership development is a necessity to be prepared for. How can you stay relevant and competitive in your market and industry when both are constantly in flux?

There are three types of business regeneration IT pros need to be aware of: organisational, industry/market, and skills.

1. Organisational regeneration

Who doesn’t want to be indispensable to their organisation? Business coach Marsha Egan says that, in addition to job security, invaluable employees can enjoy the benefits of more raises, promotions, and opportunities when they get involved in special projects or strategy creation. “To become indispensable, you’ll want to dig deeper and really think about the work that matters to the company and its success. Tackle those projects first,” she told Forbes.

But what defines an invaluable employee? And how do you transform from “important” to “essential?” Robert Half research indicates that the most effective leaders make an effort to understand the big picture for their companys’ goals and their industry progress at large, in addition to the specific details of everyday work. This involves broadening exposure and aggressive pursuit of cross-discipline assignments.

2. Industry (and market) regeneration

Regardless of whether they intend to stay at their current employers forever, IT leaders need to take a broader view of their industries. A second, super-important form of regeneration involves keeping a finger on the pulse of your industry—and your job market. This second form lends value to your employer and your career. Win-win, right?

A recent Capgemini study uncovered the factors that set apart organisations with the smarts to quickly launch digital innovations and transformation. Unsurprisingly, traditional companies in this category consistently outperform their peers in profit.

One example of a company at the cutting edge of industry regeneration is Nike, which is among the first customer-facing organisations to implement mass social customisation. Their customer-facing technology allows customers to design their own shoes, vote on existing designs, and share concepts with their friends. This innovative form of crowdsourcing strengthens customer relationships while also allowing Nike to mine “mountains of highly accurate customer data.”

Today, industry and market regeneration isn’t about understanding what your competitors are doing—though that’s a start. It’s about understanding emerging technologies and marrying these ideas with strategic values.

3. Skills regeneration

Advancements in technology are one of the primary reasons there’s been a doubled-down focus on employee learning in the workplace, according to Deloitte University research. When it comes to fostering a culture of employee learning, 84 percent of executives describe learning as “important” or “very important,” which has lead to the creation of a three-part model for professional development:

  • Immediate: What do I need to support my success in the moment?
  • Intermediate: What do I need to grow in my current role?
  • Transitional: What do I need to grow in my career?

This model is on individuals as well as management, and millennials especially should always have these questions in the back of their minds. While IT leaders are likely to play an integral role in designing internal employee training opportunities, they shouldn’t wait on their employers to field opportunities to acquire new skills. Self-motivation is crucial, and a commitment to ongoing education doesn’t need to involve taking advantage of your company’s tuition reimbursement program.

Free, low-cost, and convenient resources for skills regeneration include:

Between online communities, massive open online courses (MooCs), and other open-source resources, technology has enabled IT leaders to take an active role in their own skills development.

IT pros should feel lucky they’re not actually subject to Time Lord-style regeneration when it comes to IT leadership development—but it can feel that way with how fast tech is moving and evolving. Instead of randomly assuming a new form, you have the opportunity to strategically regenerate yourself to rule your business, industry, and skills.

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