Preventing IT Program Failure, Part 6: Servant Leadership

Support, Block, Stay Out Of The Way

This is the last of my six-part series on approaches and techniques to prevent IT program failure.

“Leadership is a series of behaviors rather than a role for heroes.” Margaret Wheatley, management consultant and writer

Managers, directors, and executives are too often impediments to teams’ success. If they are true leaders, they care more about others’ success then their own and this guides their behavior and actions. I call this “True Leadership,” which is needed in all parts of an organization, not just IT. Given the ever-increasing importance and influence of technology in all facets of life and work, #TrueLeadership is needed in IT more than ever.

  1. True leaders give the team what they say they need, not what you think they need. If they make a case for another developer, a new collaboration tool, better pizza then get it for them. Your company hires people for a reason – they are talented, fully functional professionals. Respect their requests and fulfill them to the extent possible. This doesn’t mean being a pushover and providing brownies when they should be having broccoli. It means curiosity and respect for ideas and requests and working with them to get what is most important to the team-committed goals.
  2. True leaders protect the team from outside distractions and unprioritized work. If you want them to meet deadlines, value their time above all else. As with prior points made in this blog series – valuable resources should be spending time on those items aligned customers paying & staying. This is art and science – the world is not static and companies and customers change their priorities. True leaders can determine distractions from thoughtful changes in strategy.
  3. True leaders empower the team, don’t micro-manage them. The team selects the amount of work they can do in a given timeframe. The team gets to choose the adjustments they make – what they start, continue and stop doing. The team is intelligent enough to discern when changes in approach, team structure, priorities are needed – including hearing this from you and working to adjust.
  4. True leaders support learning from failures, not blame. They know there is fail and FAIL. Failure resulting from trying new stuff, lack of knowledge, and honest mistakes leads to coaching and learning opportunities. FAILURE resulting from repeated carelessness, wilful disregard for policy and ethics, and unprofessional behavior that damages the team (or worse) leads to calling HR and putting together an exit plan.
  5. True leaders are coaches who care about scoring points (delivering value that delights stakeholders and customers), but don’t care about scoring points themselves. Because leaders know that the individuals and teams score the points.

“The way to achieve your own success is to be willing to help somebody else get it first.” Ivanlya Vanzant, author and speaker 

Worth considering:

This week I was able to attend two events focused on women and diversity. It is a reminder of this quote by Madeleine Albright: “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.”

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