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IT Professional to Leader: 3 Essential Skills

While many IT professionals develop their expertise within one bucket and stay there for years, those looking to become IT leaders must have a well-rounded and broader perspective of not only technologies used, but also the business operations of an organization.  

Below, we share 3 essential considerations to refine IT leadership techniques and prepare a professional to advance from hands-on IT support to a leader of people. 

Expand business perspective 

The transition to IT leadership from technical professional requires a shift in thought regarding the role technology plays in the business, as well as an understanding of the workflow between various teams within the organization. Leaders must broaden their understanding of the business and industry, and know how technology is woven into different teams’ goals and outcomes. Rather than working hands-on with specific pieces of technology or equipment, much of leaders’ focus must be on how the technology impacts a greater set of users, clients, and business operations, while also managing a team.   

Expanding technical skillsets to include a wide variety of software and abilities is one important way IT professionals can help prepare themselves for leadership. Researching and learning about business management is another way to expand soft skills to be able to integrate technical and business thought processes. Talking with department leaders to better understand how their teams utilize technology can also help identify gaps in use, misuse, or additional resources that may be needed, as well as eliminate excess spending.  

 Improve crisis communication  

Perhaps one of the most difficult talents in IT leadership is communication between the highly technical and non-technical members of the organization. Being able to explain a complex technical issue so it's easily understood by business leaders is often a difficult skill and can cause frustration by all parties if done poorly.  

If a technical issue is impacting the organization, it must be communicated in a way that can be understood clearly by executive management and by impacted parties, and typically must be done quickly to avoid greater consequences. Consider using analogies or converting the technical issue into business terms such as risk, productivity or dollar spend. Experience and repetition are invaluable to developing this skill, but reading books and publications around business, risk, and IT management can also be very useful. 

 Invest in team development 

Information-sharing and mentorship are key for IT leaders to ensure their teams are adequately set up for both short and long-term success. Keeping tabs on industry trends and maintaining technical skills are essential. In addition to ensuring their team is regularly being trained on new skills and certifications as needed, IT leaders should be furthering their own technical expertise by taking meetings with vendors and learning about new technologies that could help the business.  

Further, IT leaders are not only called on to fix issues but should be regularly explaining to stakeholders and C-suite executives the value and use cases for different technologies and how to utilize them. IT leaders need to be able to identify and communicate how technologies can increase productivity and support the business. Being a manager who staff and other leaders can turn to for questions helps build stronger relationships and trust, which is essential as a new leader. 

Not every IT professional can – or should – set their sights on a leadership role. Moving from IT professional to IT leadership is a leap into a new career path, which changes the day-to-day thought processes and skills utilized. However, for those making the transition, these three considerations will help make the transition a successful one.  

 

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