“My father had a simple test that helps me measure my own leadership quotient: When you are out of the office he once asked me, does you staff carry on remarkable well without you?” -Martha Peak, Group Editor, AMA Magazines, Management Review, October 1992
I have written a few posts so far about my observations regarding leadership and what makes a good leader. I tried to tailor my observations so that the principles that make a good leader can be understood. Any executive knows that management principles are universal. It is a matter of taking the ideas that makes sense to you and implementing it into your own management style.
In my career I have worked with some amazing people both at the staff level and management level. In fact, I had no turnover with my staff. I had people with me for 8, 9, 10 years. An amazing fact, given Wall Street’s and IT’s reputation for high-turnover.
I incorporated the following concepts into my leadership style:
- Communicate Purpose – I spoke previously about your IT department having a mission statement. It is through clearly articulating the goals and mission in concise and quantifiable statements that I was able to provide a framework to my staff. Remember, IT operations should be aligned with business and business operations are extremely fluid depending on emergencies, changes to management structure, etc. Knowing their purpose in the IT department, my staff understood the “big picture” and was able to make informed decisions.
- Know Your Staff – Get to know your staff on a personal level. Ask questions about their lives outside of work – spouse’s names, children’s birthdays, etc. Show them that you appreciate their work and accomplishments, and the challenges they face. You will form a personal bond with your staff.
- Listen to Your Staff – As CIO we forget that that our department is a sum of many people at all levels. It is important to have a top-down and bottom-up view of your department. Why? Information has a tendency of becoming diluted by the time it reaches the top of the chain. You will be surprised to find that there are better ways of doing things from the junior members of your department.
- Care for Your Staff – My staff knew I cared enough about their concerns to take action. It reinforces the notion that they also had a voice in the department. This type of care demonstrates that you consider your people important to the overall function of the department and ultimately to the business.
Leadership does not have to be complicated. In fact, the concept of KIS (keep it simple) can ensure success for you as a leader. A simple leadership style is the hallmark of an IT department whose staff are committed to each other and the willingness to not only meet standards but to exceed them.