Leadership Qualities of the Top 5% of IT Directors

IT Leader’s Guide on Leading Like a Lion

True leadership is hard to find, especially in IT.

Strong leaders start as listeners. They are hyper-aware of their environment and learn from their predecessors. But why do most business leaders believe effective IT leaders are few and far between?

Most leaders in your average industry have a steady roadmap to success. The path is never easy, but it is predictable. This is not the case for those leading IT departments today. IT leaders no longer have the luxury of a reliable roadmap. Today, total tectonic shifts are more prevalent than ever.

Historically, 95% of IT Directors managed their functions with a top-down approach – they establish policies and procedures and hope that the effects trickle down the power pyramid.

Why did IT managers feel the need to employ this approach?

Let’s first understand what it means to be an IT leader. The job of an IT leader is never done. The pace of change in their industry is growing more rapidly than ever. They often operate with constrained budgets and increasingly sparse talent. And if they can’t keep up with their business partners’ demands, they will be replaced.

Put simply, those in charge of IT functions deal with a tremendous amount of stress. Flip the pyramid on its head and you’ve got a representation of stress and instability.

The inverse power pyramid reveals how stress pressures affect IT leaders

While the top-down method may have worked 10 or 15 years ago, it’s a different story today.

We’re taught that good leaders carry the load. But great leaders understand the key to success: empowering others.

In the words of Alexander the Great: “I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep; I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion.”

Empowering Initiatives

The more competent your employees, the easier your job will be. And given the severe IT talent dearth, developing their skills needs to be your number one priority.

Your initiatives won’t create more hours in the day, but they can increase job efficiency.

L1 employees dedicate a mere 7% of their time developing skills that move them up the work ladder. The other 93% of their time is spent on mundane, monotonous tasks, like monitoring.

With today’s technology, many of these routine tasks can be automated. Automation frees up employees to do more complex tasks and develop their skills.

See how automation alleviates pressure across each layer of the pyramid?

The Best IT Leaders are Expert Anticipators

The machine learning movement draws many parallels to surfing.

Big waves like this are scarce and scattered. C-level execs who align themselves early with this trend are at a significant advantage to outperform their competitors. Those who wait for the wave to break will be left behind or taken under.

According to Gartner, only 5% of large enterprises use artificial intelligence today. But the trend is rising. AI will octuple to 40% in less than 4 years.

Maybe there will be plenty of time to make the decision. But consider the last big business wave.

“Surfing the net” took on a whole new meaning for enterprise executives when the internet wave began to swell in the 1990’s. Early executives position their proverbial paddle boards to set up shop, while other execs watch from the shore. The shoreline execs paddle out as they see the cresting wave.

By then, it’s too late.

Despite starting off small, companies like Netflix and Amazon rode the internet wave to relevance, leaving Blockbuster and Barnes & Noble in their wake.

Is the machine learning movement really as big as the internet? Netflix isn’t taking any risks. They’ve made moves toward machine learning adoption since as early as 2014.

At the end of the day, the top 5% of IT executives separate themselves from the rest of the field in two major ways.

  1. They know how to empower employees with scalable initiatives.
  2. They anticipate major trends and take action before the wave breaks.

IT leaders don’t need to go searching for business functions to power with AI. In fact, there’s a huge opportunity that lies right under their noses.

Today’s machine learning technology can reduce Level 1 and Level 2 support tasks by as much as 30%. That’s a huge win-win. You save millions on operations costs and learn how to apply AI to other business functions. Employees develop their skills 5 times faster than they would without automation.

The wave is right in front of you. All that’s left to do is hop on.

 


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