The world of IT knowledge has rapidly evolved over the past few decades. When I was beginning my professional career twenty years ago, it was common to have expertise in one domain—infrastructure, in my case. Nowadays, it is practically impossible to keep up with as technology evolves. As more people enter the world of IT, they must take on this sea of knowledge, often without any guidance from their superiors. In my time as a technology leader, I have made it my mission to be an Inspirer, a leader who takes the vision of the organization to the people and communities they serve.
An Inspirer is a leader who motivates people behind a challenging and important idea, project, or business objective. During my tenure as an IT Executive, I have defined specific characteristics of an Inspirational Leader: People-oriented, educator, positive personality, future-forward thinker, and encourager.
By nature, I am a people-oriented leader. I emphasize building strong binding with colleagues horizontally and vertically. By encouraging contributions from everyone, the work environment becomes collaborative, and no one is afraid to offer up an idea.
In an industry like information technology, ongoing education is essential. There are many great examples of when inspiration changes a person’s life. One of my first supervisors and mentor inspired me to take as many technical certification exams as possible. He mentored and tutories me, helped me with training materials, created an opportunity to study, and tied my annual performance to the number of technical certifications I would pass.
Later in my career, another of my mentors inspired me to dive deep into business acumen. In my turn, I did the same with my direct reports by creating an encouraging environment for acquiring new knowledge in IT and business domains.
I am an optimistic person, and to function at the top of my productivity I need to be in a positive environment. To bring a good attitude and synergy to a team, I inspire everyone around me to seed positivity. People are social species at their core, and we all need to have a sense of belongingness. As an optimist, I always see the positive side of the situation and share this with everyone.
For example, during a major incident, before everyone starts to switch to panic mode, I ask everyone to come outside and take a deep breath. To lighten the mood before we go to work, I ask everyone to share their favorite joke about IT failures. I share stories about successful projects and challenges along the way to success in a critical situation.
Future Forward Thinker
In my life, I work to see the future not as unpredictable complications but rather as a set of mindful anticipation in any situation. Every week I book one hour in my calendar to think about my short-term and long-term development plans and revise them accordingly. This helps me stay focused on the future and feel confident about my plans for it. As a leader, I ask my team to do the same. In any one-to-one meeting with my team members, my first few questions on the agenda are focused on their plans:
- What is your short-term development plan, six months to one year?
- What is your long-term development plan for one to three years?
By inspiring people to think about the future each time we have one-on-one, I hope it will become a habit after some time.
Along similar lines, a leader must be able to see an idea or issue from all sides. I have shifted my thinking to a broad perspective and try to see from multiple angles when working on a project.
It is hard to assemble a puzzle without the whole picture. The same principle applies to technical and non-technical situations. When too close to one part of the picture or viewing it only from one angle, the narrow focus impacts the decision-making process and may lead to the wrong decision. Viewing a situation from a broad perspective and different angle leads to a better decision.
Becoming an Inspirational Leader is not a destination; it is a path. Some of the best advice I got earlier in my career was, “You can’t change your character (leadership style) as a whole. You have to do it one habit at a time.” At every one-on-one meeting at the beginning of my path to becoming an Inspirational Leader, I started with how and what I changed to become a better version of myself. This translated to my leadership style and one-on-ones with my direct reports. I encourage them to practice the same kind of self-reflection. As a leader, we must help people around us to evolve and become a better version of themselves.
People naturally look to their leaders for inspiration and encouragement. Good inspirational leaders will utilize these characteristics to inspire their teams and lead them to success. The success of your team can only lead to success for you and your organization.