I am going to do something that is rather rare for myself. I am going to open this post with a quote.
Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it. — Dwight D. Eisenhower
This quote sums up a fairly deep lesson on what it means to be a true leader, rather than a manager. Throughout my 16 year IT career, I’ve always assumed I wanted to be a leader because I enjoyed the strategy side of IT. Figuring out what I wanted the big picture to look like, breaking it down into smaller parts, and putting processes and people in place to achieve that vision is what I thought leadership was. It turns out that what I always thought I wanted as a leader really wasn’t a leader at all – it was just a manager.
True leadership is serving the needs of others.
Real leaders are people whom others go to for advice, for vision, and for guidance. By serving others, you will find that you build a relationship with them. As that relationship grows, the other person will want to serve you as much as you serve them. In that, you achieve the goal of getting someone else to do something you want done because they wanted to do it, not because you used your authority to force them to do it.
Leaders motivate and inspire. Leaders ensure that the people they lead are in the best position to get things done. Leaders provide for material needs, educational needs, and emotional needs. Leaders don’t use fear to force people to do what needs to be done. Leaders also shelter their people to an extent from the politics of the organization, and as a result, leaders are the ones with the targets on their backs.
Leadership is not a title or position.
You don’t need to be a CIO to be an IT leader (although the paycheck is nice). You don’t need official authority to get someone else to do something you want them to do. All you need is influence, which you create through service and credibility. Yes, you need to know you stuff and be able to deliver. But you also need to ensure that you are serving your coworkers, your boss, your boss’s boss, and your end users. If you skip the service part, you severely shortchange your ability to exercise influence.
Leaders don’t horde knowledge, they share it freely. They tell their boss all the good and all the bad things. They don’t filter the truth to make themselves look better. More importantly, they communicate in a way that their recipient understands the message. Personally, this is an area where I struggle. I tend to use a lot of lingo and technical speak. I am sure this hurts comprehension for my recipient.
I now have a new goal. My goal is to learn to communicate more effectively with people on both the business and technical side. I intend to achieve this goal by taking a couple of courses in communication, and reading at least two books on the subject. In addition, regular blogging will help my written communication, but my verbal communication will only be helped by continuing to seek out public speaking opportunities.