77% of organizations report experiencing a leadership gap.
In a world where job-hopping has become the new normal, managers and mentors alike are faced with an increasingly pressing challenge – how to keep their employees happy, productive, and invested in their current company.
Consider the research for a moment: among employees who plan on staying with their current company, 91% of them want to leave within the next 3 years.
This isn’t even taking into account workers that are thinking of leaving or they’re already decided and planning their exit.
There’s no doubt about it – leaders, especially in a demanding field like tech, need to step up their game if they want to retain and engage top talent.
So, what traits are crucial to becoming a successful tech leader, according to career experts?
A few months ago at MAN Digital, we hosted a webinar together with Greg and talked about this topic.
Let us give you some tips on how to strengthen your leadership skills in a tech world and provide some recommended resources.
What every IT leader needs to know
We live in an era where employee empowerment trumps management.
Research shows that when teams feel empowered at work, it boosts job satisfaction, performance, and loyalty to the organization.
There might be a variety of different leadership styles, but all of them have similarities that guarantee success.
The reality is, leading means so much more than just hitting targets.
It involves building trust, commitment, and equipping others with the right mindset, guidance, and tools to maximize growth.
The good news is that leadership traits can be cultivated.
And even if mentoring is second nature to you, if you don’t constantly refine your skills, you’ll soon find that you’re not operating at your peak and team performance drops as a result.
Whether we’re talking soft skills or knowing how to adapt to change, this is what you need to know about leadership in a tech-driven world.
Company goals and personal values need to be aligned
Oftentimes, change is driven by necessity.
Whether it’s burnout, losing clients or an urgent need to completely switch up your business processes, there comes a time for transformation when change initiatives need to be put into place so your company survives.
However, this shift can be a wise forethought instead of a knee-jerk reaction.
You don’t need to wait for your bottom line or your health to be affected in order to make a change. You can take a step back and re-evaluate if your personal goals and the goals you have for your company mesh well or it’s time to recalibrate.
High-value leadership means that these values are clearly communicated with the rest of your team so that you can get accurate feedback from them. It’s important to build a powerful trust circle where your employees feel safe to share their needs or if their values have shifted.
Avoiding burnout matters more than you think
A lot of tech leaders believe that they can get away with not looking after their physical bodies. They’ll pick up a wide range of bad habits (addiction to emails, meetings, social media) while downplaying the importance of things like sleep.
It might seem like skimping on activities that keep you healthy fuel your productivity because they free up a lot of time. But this is counterintuitive – doing this long-term is bound to affect both your physical and emotional health.
Over time this is a losing strategy. It affects your mental ability to solve problems and make balanced decisions, as well as drains you of patience for your team which can cause a whole host of internal issues like unnecessary tension and conflicts.
Prioritizing your health is not being lazy, it’s an effective and reliable strategy for staying productive long-term.
Your effort will pay off long-term in the right environment
Many managers have a very pragmatic leadership style. They usually only give correctional feedback (“this is wrong”, “this isn’t going to cut it”, “this isn’t good enough”) and almost never focus on the positives that their team brings to the table.
If you let perfect become the enemy of done, your team will feel it.
Instead, you want to create an environment where it’s safe to make mistakes as long as it’s part of the learning process. You want your team to trust you enough that they can give genuine feedback when needed. And, most importantly, you want to tackle some of the main challenges that come up for your team in a tech environment:
- Change happens fast and constantly
- Integration is complex and needs stability to avoid outages
- Innovation is limited by the seemingly unending need to cut costs
- Burnout due to workload is inevitable
- Cloud services add a whole new layer of complexity to their processes
- Privacy-related issues have come to the forefront in recent years and are affecting the way your team works
You need to protect your team’s motivation
The most important area you can invest in to improve your leadership skills is understanding what motivates people.
You need to learn how to balance encouragement with accountability. Moreover, you need to be able to tailor your approach for each team member, individually. People are different – what works to motivate one of your employees might have little to no effect on another.
The most important question you need to ask is this: “what is important for this person and how can you connect that with what you want this person to do?”
Lack of motivation usually starts with something small. This is why the best leaders are the most attentive. They anticipate, observe, and intervene before problems blow up into something bigger and unmanageable.
Although you’ve got a lot on your plate, it pays off to be aware of your team’s pulse day in and day out and keep yourself in the loop with their accomplishments, concerns, and frustrations.
You want your people to be in their flow zone. So your aim should be not only to create a conducive environment that offers them the flexibility they need but also to interfere as little as possible in the process so that you don’t hinder this flow in any way.
Being smart about delegation is key to gaining more time and independence
To keep high levels of motivation throughout your project lifecycle, you need to give your team members tasks that are slightly above their competency level so that they are challenged but not so difficult that they get overwhelmed.
This is why it’s crucial for you to delegate challenging tasks.
Doing this will not only boost your team’s motivation but it will save you a lot of headaches and clear up a lot of time for yourself that you can use to focus on other core objectives you have for your business.
Remember that you shouldn’t force people out of their comfort zone but rather incentivize them to take the plunge themselves.
With this in mind, delegation across teams is equally important. If you notice that an employee is on the brink of burnout, you need to help them reduce their tasks even if they feel like they can take on more.
Putting it all together
In order to be a high-value leader, you need to constantly refine your skills and aim to improve. To do this, you need a growth mindset that paves the way for a process of lifelong learning. There are so many resources out there on leadership that can help you, but you need to carve out the time and energy for them.
If you’re interested in learning more about mindful and highly effective leadership, here is a shortlist of recommended books:
- Start With Why & Leaders Eat Last [Simon Sinek]: two must-reads for anyone aspiring to become a leader;
- Dare To Lead [Brené Brown]: on communicating clearly and effectively with your team;
- Radical Candor [Kim Scott]: a tactical book that offers a framework for non-violent but direct communication with your team that allows you to care for them while still challenging them to grow.
- Give And Take [Adam Grant]: on making it a habit to give more than you receive, why it’s valuable and how it works in your favor long-term.
- The One Thing [Gary W. Keller and Jay Papasan]: on how to be more selective with our work.
For more leadership knowledge, you can watch the replay here.
Also, if you are passionate about growth and tech, we’ve got some awesome case studies from the Polish market on the MAN Digital blog.
Author: Romeo MAN, Managing Partner at MAN Digital