How to recognise leadership potential in your IT team
If you’re looking for a leader for your IT team, you can of course advertise the position, start receiving applications and conduct a big assessment where you put candidates through their paces.
This has clear benefits: leaders from the outside bring other methods with them, while the fresh wind from competitors is excellent for your company.
Alternatively, however, you can focus on the resources you already have, namely your existing employees. Among them, you’ll often find a better option with fewer risks and less time required.
But what makes a good leader? How can you recognise the leadership potential of an IT specialist? These are the questions we would like to address in this blog post.
IT leadership: What does good leadership look like?
Before you can recognise a good leader, you must first be clear about what good leadership is(from your perspective).
It goes without saying that this is a debated matter. There are a variety of leadership styles for which different skills are needed. However, there’s one thing of which most experts are convinced: leadership isn’t about telling your employees what to do and simply enforcing it. Nor does it mean being the best in a field, the loudest or the most extroverted. Leadership is something completely different.
Leadership is serving
Competent leadership means:
Creating a space in which people can develop their skills, deploying them according to their respective strengths and weaknesses, and creating efficiency through the right use of personnel.
Inspiring people to fully invest themselves in their role and go above and beyond every single day. Leading is all about filling people with enthusiasm.
Listening to team members, supporting them and mediating when necessary.
In a nutshell, leadership is about service, not a privileged title or position. If you want to lead, you must be willing to serve. That is not always pleasant. In fact, quite the opposite: leading means exposing yourself to discomfort, being vulnerable and constantly reaching out to others. As a leader, you serve as a role model; soft skills are therefore just as important as hard skills.
However, true leadership skills are thin on the ground, which is what makes them so valuable.
Five essential behaviours of a leader
So, what personality traits should you look for when recruiting a leader from your IT team? It’s tempting to promote the person with the greatest expertise or the person that speaks the most in meetings.
Although such people are usually capable employees, they may be completely unsuited to lead others. Instead of just IQ, leaders primarily need EQ. In other words, soft skills are what are needed most. Here are the five most important characteristics of a good IT leader:
1. Successful self-leadership
The golden role of leadership? Lead yourself first, then lead others. A good leader must demonstrate excellence in leadership in relation to themselves and their work, for example by:
Practicing effective self-care, g. maintaining a healthy work-life balance
Establishing routines for themselves that lead to success
Always keeping an overview of their tasks
Knowing their limits and saying no when necessary
Knowing their values and living by them.
For a good leader, their word is their bond. They stand up for what they believe in, even when the going gets tough. In doing so, they inspire those around them and foster loyalty and trust.
3. Constructive handling of errors
Make mistakes, admit mistakes and learn from mistakes. This is the creative cycle in every business, especially in IT.
Good leaders must therefore be able to handle mistakes and thereby establish a positive culture of making mistakes within their sphere of influence. This also includes the courage to deal with imperfections in an open, appreciative manner and give encouraging feedback.
4. Willingness to take risks and the ability to trust
Taking work off other people? Keeping a tight rein on anything and everything? These are not signs of a competent manager.
Instead, a good leader aims to empower team members to compensate for possible deficits so that they themselves can perform the tasks assigned to them effectively. Good leadership also means providing support and training so that individual employees can develop within the team. This requires trust in employees and a willingness to accept the risks associated with delegation.
5. Empathy and strong communication skills
Leaders are social workers. In other words, they are responsible for ensuring that the people within their team are satisfied, feel comfortable (with each other) and work together in a way that generates value.
Leaders manage tasks; but above all, they manage people. That’s why they need qualities that will help them deal with people:
Empathy to understand others and communication skills to get their message across appropriately.
Agile leadership, i.e. applying methodologies that provide the team with clear, secure processes. The manager always maintains an overview and communicates this to their employees: where do we stand as a team and what are the goals we are working towards together?
Situational leadership to manage employees in the team individually, promote their strengths, and respond to different needs. Although not every team member has the same skills, the team is still able to achieve the goal thanks to the help of the manager.
Step-by-step guide to evaluating leadership skills
You now know what makes an excellent leader. But how do you go about discovering this “treasure” in your IT team and shaping them to become a leader? Follow our step-by-step guide for HR professionals:
Observe: Stay present in your team. And not just at the next team building event. In the office, in the kitchen and in the meeting room, employees are constantly showing you what they are made of. You simply need to pay attention to their behaviour. Talk to other managers about their team members as well.
Narrow down the group of people: Over a few weeks, depending on the size of the team, two or more people will emerge whom you suspect have leadership potential.
Challenge: Focus on these employees once again. You may want to give them a little more responsibility in consultation with their manager and see what happens.
Develop: Once you’ve discovered a leadership talent, don’t throw them in at the deep end. Training and mentoring programmes help them to acquire the skills they lack and gradually grow into their new role.
Excellent IT leaders are waiting for you at Experis
Not found what you were looking for? You may not always discover leadership skills within your own team. In this case, you can use Experis to draw on our pool of excellent IT leaders. Experis is your direct route to a new leader for your IT team – whether permanently or on an individual project basis. Just get in touch!