IT Leadership Muscle Needs Exercise

Posted under: From the Blog 25th of June, 2010

We IT folk come from a cosseted techno comfort zone and need to work on our leadership as we circle up through career junctions.  And by doing it, not by hearing others talk about it.

The most frequent early and obvious leadership development point is the technical to team leader shift – letting go of the technology, and getting more involved in messy people issues. Most organisations offer generic supervisor training, and even better IT leadership development residentials certainly help here, when more senior staff can share their reflections on their own transition.

But higher up, as the budding IT manager enters their organisation’s leadership, they  confront a more machiavellian world of work politics, and a next phase of leadership development is required.  More highly tuned interpersonal skills are required and only come, like muscle , through exercise. But how can IT folk practise what are often only nascent skills compared to leadership colleagues that have come up through tougher schools in the organisation.

Leadership is not a spectator sport. Industry forums and conferences need to try harder to build in safe practice zones – interactive playpens for IT managers to find their voices and other leadership skills, in leadership scrimmage with their colleagues.  I suggest much higher levels of interactivity and audience participation. Make it fun. And make it a bit uncomfortable, a bit of a stretch. Speakers should be more courageous in challenging their audiences to take a view and participate, more provocative in their positions in order to get a rise, more thoughtful and skillful in managing their interaction with their audience.

Leadership can be learnt: voice can found, resilience developed, we can learn how to deal with the cut and thrust, the thrills and disappointments of getting and more importantly not getting what we want. And how did we learn much of this when we were young – through games, and sport.

A more creative approach is to treat leadership development like theatre sport – using game structures and including improv, role playing. play acting. Think “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” in a corporate setting. One simple example is a game called “Win As Much As You Can!” that I use to simulate leadership decision making and setup participants for trust and betrayal. This one hour activity (30 minute game, 30 minute reflection) prepares less experienced staff for, and reminds the more experienced about, the rough and tumble of leadership. And they have a fun,  memorable experience. High return for the time invested and there should be more of it.

Please contact me if you would like a copy of “Win As Much As You Can!” or a hand building more game into your leadership development. As Gillard said to Abbott yesterday, “Game On!”.

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