Being an
IT leader is different from what is was 10, or even five, years ago. It’s no
longer about running herd on a central services staff and checking off end-user
needs. For today’s IT leader, a superior aptitude for technology is not enough.

Bob
Hewes
of Camden Consulting Group
says there are even differences in what it takes to be an IT leader over any
other kind of leader. Here are his nine traits of strong IT leaders:

1.  Trusting (that employees will take
chances, and may even fail)

It is very
important that IT leaders create an environment where employees are encouraged
to take chances and are safe to fail. This is often tricky to do. Often times we
hear, “Of course, we encourage people to take risks, but we don’t get enough of
it.” Why? It can be due to the consequences of what happens when something
doesn’t work. If it is called out in a bad way, people will shy away from risk
taking. Now, you don’t want people taking risks willy-nilly. Rather, it should
be calculated risks in consciously chosen areas. The leader needs to help
define the boundaries and act in the right way when a “failure” happens. This
takes vigilance over time.

2.  Strong and approachable
communicators

Communication
is one of the fundamental leadership capabilities, IT or otherwise.  Why? 
So much is done through communication; it is how initiatives are
launched, results reported, and a plethora of things in between. Remember, communication
is a two way street and listening is as important as “telling”.  Great IT leaders listen incredibly well and
ask great questions.

3.  Collaborative

Collaboration
is one of “those” skills that technical people can look down upon.  However, many great ideas and decisions come
about because great minds worked together on a problem. That is collaboration.
To push on it – and ask why? Simply put, no one has all the answers especially
to the most difficult challenges. A great IT leader will encourage
collaboration at the right moments.

4.  Self-aware

It is
critical for IT leaders to be self-aware. It is vital to know your style, where
it works best, and where to adjust your approach. If you don’t know your
weaknesses, how can you improve them?

5.  Problem solvers

Many IT
people (maybe most) are problem solvers at heart. Given the technical nature
and complexity of each issue, problem solving is key and something an IT leader
pushes for.

6.  Confident (in others)

IT pros
tend to have difficulty relinquishing control when they move into management.
As a leader, it is incredibly important to hand over control and work through
other people, as it is the only way to scale. 
If leaders don’t make this shift, they will hamper themselves and, more
importantly, the entire organization.

7.  Strategic thinkers

Seeing the
bigger picture and looking forward is critical to succeeding as a leader;
without it, one’s head is down too much. An IT leader should be strategically
focused at least 15% of the time. One must take a hard look at where you
actually spend your time and where you should. 
Make an adjustment to include more strategic activities.

8.  Decisive decision makers

Precise
decision making is an essential trait of IT leaders. Leaders need to make both
quality and timely decisions. They also need to know what and why they are
making this decision, how to explain the decision to their staff, or justify it
to the C-Suite.

9.  Ahead of industry trends and changes

Today the
pace of change, need for faster decision making, and consumer demand in IT is
intense. IT leadership needs to be ahead of and deliver marketplace demands
while also maintaining security and other critical functions. That is not easy
to balance, but it is something IT leaders need to tackle head-on.