Leaders set the pace. They create expectations. They lead teams to victory. If they’re good, they help make each member of the team better personally and professionally. As an IT leader, you may wonder how you can improve and build a better team. What does it take to make people more productive? What’s the best approach for keeping them focused and driven? When is it right and wrong to offer tough criticism? Let’s look at 5 critical components to any leadership strategy.
Exercise Extreme Ownership
In Extreme Ownership, authors Leif Babin and Jocko Willink discuss the concept of ownership. Many managers are quick to place blame on external forces or even their people. Extreme ownership is different. Under this philosophy you’re responsible for everything in your world. You should anticipate external forces. You should ensure that your team has everything they need to succeed. It’s about planning and the rigorous discipline that makes victory a habit. In the MSP realm, think of it this way: If a project goes poorly, it’s not because a team member failed, it’s because you did. You’re the boss. You own victory and defeat. While this is a hard pill for many managers to swallow, the philosophy of extreme ownership is effective from the office to the most dangerous warzones in the world.
Mop the Floor
When is the last time you rolled up your sleeves to do some dirty work? When did you last fish the cables on a networking job? When have you “mopped the floor” literally or figuratively? Making sure you mop shows your team that no task is beneath you, and therefore, no task should ever be beneath them either. By tackling even menial duties, your employees begin to understand that rank and position don’t matter when it comes to success. Getting everything done—no matter who does it—is how the team succeeds. If you believe it enough to do the work yourself, they’ll believe it too.
Be Radically Candid
Candor goes a long way, but there are principles on, and structure to, how a leader should provide feedback and praise. In Radical Candor, Kim Scott explores the ways direct and critical communication can help your team members improve. Essentially, the process is about creating a culture of open communication—including criticism—for everyone in the organization. Everybody must learn to argue effectively for ideas that matter to them. They must also be equipped to criticize one another openly and honestly, and in ways that are impersonal. It’s not about attacking people; it’s about attacking the work so that everyone can improve the end results and themselves. As a leader, you set the stage for how interpersonal communication works, so think carefully about how to create a more open culture of communication in your office.
Develop a Flexible Management Style
Some people loathe being micromanaged. Others actually thrive when a leader pays close attention to them and their work. Your team is most likely made of various types of workers. Some want to grow and excel quickly. Others are satisfied to stay the course and hone the quality of the work they already do. Being a great leader requires you to identify these distinct personality types so that you can manage them accordingly. Each learn and work in different ways. They all require a distinct approach to achieving whatever success means to them. Take the time to understand every person’s approach to work and what motivates them, then adapt your style to build them as individuals and as a team.
Develop Processes and People
Leadership means deciding on a direction, removing your team’s hurdles, and trusting that they’ll succeed. This works best if you take every opportunity to help them develop hard and soft skills. The way you expect them to communicate can improve their relationships and collaboration abilities. Your willingness to give them time to study and learn on company time allows them to develop new abilities. This makes them more valuable in their careers and more valuable to you as an employer. Understand where your employees want to go—personally and professionally—and work with them to help.
Your team isn’t made of employees, they’re the people you’ve chosen to spend almost a quarter of your life with. Leaders aren’t just bosses. Leaders are mentors and friends who care personally about people and nurture their growth. Outside of being confident, strong, and decisive, it’s important to connect with people and be the kind of person employees learn from and look up to. Your actions speak louder than your words, so put in the work that shows them you’re someone worth following.