Successful leaders understand that success comes only as the result of a deliberate process. Real success is cultivated over time as the leader develops and practices proven actions that bring success. Becoming a successful IT leader is no different — you must develop and rigorously adhere to IT leadership habits that produce success.
The popular quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson is still true — “Sow a thought and you reap an action; sow an act and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny.”
So what are some proven IT leadership habits that anyone can adopt to help you become successful? Here are six habits we recommend.
Read Every Day
No one person has the corner on knowledge and wisdom. The best leaders remain teachable and fully cognizant of their need to learn more. Reading every day exposes you to a variety of words, ideas, concepts, opinions, challenges, positions, knowledge, and wisdom that you can use in your own life and career.
A wise man was once asked the secret to his wisdom. He answered with a profound statement: “Knowledge is learning from your own mistakes. Wisdom is learning from the mistakes of others.” Reading is the best way to avoid the mistakes of others while learning important lessons.
Although this article in Harvard Business Review is rather dated (2012), the wisdom it contains is timeless, as it emphasizes the value of reading for business leaders. In fact, it highlights several business leaders who were or are avid readers, among them being:
- Steve Jobs
- Nike founder Phil Knight
- Sidney Harmon (founder of Harmon Industries)
- David Rubenstein (founder of the Carlyle Group)
- Winston Churchill (Nobel Prize in Literature)
The article goes on to say that these and other business leaders “... believed that deep, broad reading cultivated in them the knowledge, habits, and talents to improve their organizations.”
Reading is among the foremost IT leadership habits because it allows leaders to stay current on trends and new methodologies, it sparks innovation and insight, and it increases vocabulary and verbal intelligence.
Too many leaders today in every realm deflect responsibility instead of accepting it. Our society has made heroes out of those who blame others for their failures and mistakes. Blame has become a national pastime, to our lasting shame and regret.
From the child who blames parents, teachers, and others for their mistakes comes the criminal that blames the police and others in authority for their crimes. Avoiding responsibility for our actions or for the consequences of those actions shows a decided lack of character.
Real leaders take responsibility and face problems or challenges head-on. This is how solutions are discovered. Among the most important IT leadership habits you can adopt is taking responsibility. Be the leader; step forward and acknowledge the issue, make amends if necessary, and get busy moving forward to remedy the situation or meet the challenge.
In another somewhat dated article from Constant Leadership (2017), the author offers sound advice that is sorely needed today: “Choose to take responsibility as the leader. Own the problem, take a hard-nosed approach, present a solution, get to work, and don’t make the same mistake twice. You’ll stave off disaster, fix problems faster, build trust, and get better results.”
Lead with Positivity
No one ever became a success by being a “negative Nellie.” Moreover, negativity only inspires those around you to put distance between themselves and you. Leaders must set the example with a positive attitude. Positivity is just as contagious among your team as negativity. As the leader, it is up to you to choose which you wish to spread.
Confidence, courage, resiliency, and optimism are the characteristics that breed a sense of unity, teamwork, and “can-do” willingness to tackle any challenge. Among the most important IT leadership habits, positivity ranks among the highest. Keep your company IT environment on a higher level by leading with positivity.
In an article on Edutopia from the George Lucas Educational Foundation, the writer shares, “During my research at Boston College, I looked at positive leadership and its impact on school culture. I learned that positive leadership makes a difference in productivity, satisfaction, and happiness at work. Leading with positivity also helps to build trust among colleagues, and it becomes safer to open up to change.”
Make Health a Priority
Taking care of your team and setting the pace requires you to make health a priority in your own life. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle contributes to a high level of brain function, sustained energy for any challenge, and overall physical resilience. These are vital to being the kind of leader that plots a path to success for yourself and others.
The Center for Creative Leadership highlights the four essential components of good health that will enhance your leadership ability. They are not secrets; in fact, they are basic to good health for any purpose. They include:
- Plenty of sleep
- A healthy diet
- Regular physical activity
- Proper stress management
Further, these components are all interrelated. Regular physical activity creates the need for more and better sleep. A healthy diet provides the energy needed for exercise. Healthy ways to manage stress contribute to better sleep and appetite. These elements in balance form a symbiotic circle of life that cannot help but to maximize your leadership potential and impact.
Encourage Others to Take Ownership
Real leaders must know how to motivate the people they lead. The best way to get your team engaged is to routinely encourage them to take ownership in the work. This is a common habit among successful leaders that can transform the people you lead as well as the quality of work they produce.
Amazon’s Jeff Bezos has long encouraged employees to think like owners. While providing important guidance, feedback, resources, and support, grant your IT team a level of trust and autonomy to complete their tasks. If possible, try to implement:
- Flexible schedules
- Remote work options
- Platform for input
- Stake in the company’s success
- Shared mission
A key aspect of encouraging others to take ownership is granting them the space and permission to fail. A safe and positive environment that allows room for mistakes and growth encourages free thinking and innovation, which can lead to even greater creativity and success.
Establish Attainable Goals
The popular SMART method for setting goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) has been around for well over a generation because it works. Among these markers, perhaps the most important is to establish attainable goals. While shooting at nothing guarantees a dead-center hit every time, shooting too high also guarantees a miss, which is incredibly demoralizing.
There is nothing wrong with having and sharing a “huge vision,” so long as there is a roadmap of attainable goals that show the way. Elephants are eaten one single bite at a time and mountains are scaled one small step at a time. Set goals for yourself and your team that are challenging but attainable to encourage hard work and genuine effort.
What other IT leadership habits do you recommend to keep yourself and your team laser-focused on the goal of success? Share your ideas or recommendations in the comments below.
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