I don’t think anyone would dispute that great leadership matters, and that it matters most at critical times. I also think we can win the argument that we’re in one of those critical times right now – as technology is dramatically changing at such a rapid pace and creating disruption, change and opportunities in virtually every business model and industry. Over the last century, successful businesses were described as ones that focused on the customer and continuous improvement. Though, as we move forward in this modern era, they will be described as focusing on the customer and continuously TRANSFORMING.
It’s in these periods of critical transformation that strong leaders need to step up, and as I wrote about recently in our blog, What Great Leaders Do Great, they must:
- Set the Agenda
- Build a Great Team
- Deliver with Consistency
Since this era of high change is driven by digital technologies, every successful enterprise will need their IT leaders to step up and participate in articulating more than just the business outcomes. They now must also align and match the business outcomes with technical and organizational outcomes.
Key Traits of Great Leaders
With that being said, I’d like to give you some thoughts about some simple leadership traits that distinguish good leaders from great leaders.
- First and foremost, great leaders “SHOW UP”. This seems self-evident, but being a great leader is hard work. It takes being “in the fight” – working directly with frontline employees, talking directly with customers, going on sales calls with the sales team and sitting in on project reviews – as opposed to getting all of that information from intermediaries and staff.
- Great leaders are “OPTIMISTIC”. A pessimist can’t work through adversity, and if you’re doing anything worthwhile, you’ll have plenty of things going wrong. However, an optimist that doesn’t have the realistic facts (because they didn’t “Show Up”) is just a cheerleader – not a problem solver.
- Another trait of great leaders is “COURAGE”. This is the willingness to take chances, make decisions, adjust plans and admit when you’re wrong. If you’re going to make great progress, your decision-making speed needs to increase dramatically. You won’t be perfectly right all the time, and that’s okay. You have to become comfortable with being mostly right and getting a lot of “at bats”. If you show up and have an optimistic mindset, your courage as a leader should follow.
- One final trait is “TECHNICAL SAVVY”. Afterall, we are leading a technical discipline. While you don’t have to be the most technically adept, you have to work hard to at least know enough to make solid architectural and engineering decisions. More importantly, you must surround yourself with individuals that you can turn to for additional knowledge, insights and support. Keep in mind, that having immense technical savvy does nothing for your leadership abilities if you don’t know the facts, keep an optimistic mindset in the face of adversity and having the courage to take the risks that are required for true, impactful business transformation.
As you can see these, four characteristics are connected and are a part of every great leader. The team with the best leaders always wins. Particularly in times of high change. That’s why leaders matter the most.