The Value of Soft Skills for Today’s IT Leader
CommunicationCommunication skills are always highly valued, particularly in leadership positions. No matter how brilliant your plan for leveraging IT for business success, it doesn’t matter if it’s not clearly communicated to the right people. The ability to communicate well both verbally and in writing is vital to successful leadership. In IT, communication comes into play in many situations. Perhaps the most important is in explaining the value of IT projects to those who may not completely understand IT or its potential. While not everyone needs to know everything, it’s important for the right people to know the right things.
CollaborationTeamwork is essential in applied IT. That requires collaborating with people in other departments who may not speak the same “IT language” that you do. By learning to work collaboratively with those outside your department, IT professionals can better use their talents to have a positive impact on operations.
Interpersonal SkillsIt’s important to note with communications that no text, email, chat group or message board can replace routine face-to-face meetings. That includes not just employees, but clients, as well.
Decision-MakingIt’s important for IT leaders to practice active listening and empathy, making it easier to hear and understand all sides of a story. That’s because wise leaders know to gather information from a variety of sources before making a decision. They carefully consider the potential implications of every option. They consult with experts. Only then do they move forward with a decision. This plays a role in good conflict management skills, another good trait of successful leaders.
Role ModelOne of the most difficult things for some leaders to realize is that others are watching them and possibly emulating their behavior. The boss that takes three-hour lunches will soon have employees who take three-hour lunches (don’t do that). IT leaders need to model positive traits on a day-to-day basis.
Developing Soft SkillsPracticing the above soft skills – and learning what works and what doesn’t in certain situations – is perhaps the best teacher for IT leaders. But there are other avenues for improving soft skills. They include:
- Read more. It’s especially productive to read nonfiction about leaders and your industry
- Unplug. This is harder for those in IT than anyone else, but taking time out from the constant, attention-grabbing world of technology can help recharge your batteries and improve creativity.
- Write a Plan. Write down plan or a statement that clearly shows the responsibilities you plan to take in the coming year, the goals you plan to achieve and the strategic moves you will make to achieve those goals
- Listen More. An immense help to developing communication skills is to stop talking and simply listen to those who already have excellent soft skills. There’s a great deal you can learn.
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