3 essential leadership styles for the IT manager

October 20, 20174 Minute Read

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Just as tech has evolved and transformed the workplace beyond printers and desktops to BYOD and wearables, so has the role of the IT decision-maker (ITDM). As an IT manager, you’ve been integral in selecting devices, software, and other tech for your company, but those decisions don’t get made without input from others. You’ve had to connect with various teams and collaborate with business decision-makers (BDMs) who’re largely responsible for making the final call on your recommendations.

For the millennial IT manager, navigating between them offers a crash course in leadership. But when you’re also up to your elbows in day-to-day operations, it’s a challenge to think about fine-tuning how you communicate and influence your colleagues. TL;DR: There are plenty of bad bosses out there—you may have even had one—and you definitely don’t want to be one. Here are some examples of the worst leadership behaviors—and what you’ll want to do instead.

The Negative Nellie

Body language speaks volumes before someone even opens their mouth. It’s not surprising that Negative Nellies that slouch through meetings, shake their heads “no” during every conversation, crosses their arms, or even just looks at their computer rather than the person talking is subtly breeding bad behavior like a virus.

Shrug off that slump—even if you’re not feeling 100 percent positive about an outcome. Research suggests that just standing up straight can make you feel more confident, and that energy can boost your interactions with coworkers. As the IT manager, it’s important to stay positive, even when a BDM is actively shutting down your recommendations, or your colleagues are reluctant to learn a new system. One thing to keep in mind, says Tegan Jones, is not to “confuse this with self-satisfaction and arrogance. You want people to look up to you for inspiration—not so they can punch you in the face.”

The lone wolf

You know the type: They just don’t play well with others. Whether the lone wolf hates being part of a team because of a deep-seated need to do everything themselves (“It’s faster; I’m smarter.”) or they simply don’t know how to relate to coworkers with different backgrounds, this person retreats to their space, slaps on the headphones, and communicates in terse electronic missives.

An ITDM who wants to get things done—and get tech implemented swiftly—needs to flip this behavior on its head and consider what Robyn Benincasa, an author and motivational speaker, describes as “affiliative” leadership. “The affiliative leader works to create emotional bonds that bring a feeling of bonding and belonging to the organization,” she writes. “If this style were summed up in one phrase, it would be ‘People come first.'”

You can start getting department heads and BDMs on your side by simply listening to their concerns and complaints. A collaborator who puts people first makes them feel heard—and ends up making decisions that will benefit everyone. Think of it like crowdsourcing for innovation. You don’t need to reach total consensus, but asking people what they prefer through an anonymous poll could fast-track your next big tech buy.

The finger pointer

When a mistake is made or a problem comes up, this person is the first one to say, “It’s not my fault,” and go through a laundry list of who else is responsible for the failure. Motivated by fear of being wrong and the potential consequences (“I might get fired!”), they’ll play the blame game at every turn. Mistakes are inevitable, so how you conduct yourself after you flounder can make or break your ability to bounce back and move forward.

“It’s a lot easier to assign blame than to hold yourself accountable,” said Sandra Carreon-John, senior vice president, M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment, in an interview with Entrepreneur. Then she noted how financial expert Larry Robbins wrote a humble letter to his investors about how his bad judgment caused their investments to backslide. To make it right, he started a new fund without management and performance fees—an unprecedented move in the industry. “This is character. This is accountability,” she said. “It’s not only taking responsibility; it’s taking the next step to make it right.”

It may seem counterintuitive, but admitting a mistake is the first step to getting people on your side. Sure, you messed up—maybe your cloud computing investment didn’t play into the right business security solutions. But everyone stumbles at some point. Take the time to explain why you thought your idea was a good one and why it didn’t work, and then, offer another solution. Your colleagues will see that it’s okay to be accountable and constructively work toward a fix. It’s a win-win.

Finger pointers, Negative Nellies, and lone wolves don’t get that way in a day. That happens through daily practice. If you’re determined to succeed, make sure you squash these bad habits before they take over. Your career and your coworkers will thank you.

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