We’re not all the same.
We might all wear suits of armour at work, but not all IT people are the same. We tend to be broken into two major categories, software and hardware/systems. The hardware/system peeps have magical abilities that include setting up computer assets to bring the network ‘alive’; doing funky things with servers so most people don’t need to be too technical to use a computer successfully; and ensuring your email is delivered miraculously.
On the flip side, the software folk (and here I mean development teams) can conquer bottlenecks in organisational processes, give eye-opening insight into data through business intelligence, and take business strategy and ready it for operational execution.
So yes, both camps are extraordinary, but please don’t ask the leader of one camp be the leader of the other (or both). That’s plain ridiculous. Put it this way:
Do you think putting a commander in the Russian Space program in charge of the next NASA manned mission is a good idea?
Heck no! Not without some decent training, anyway.
But ego gets in the way
I was recently engaged in a “heated” discussion with the head of IT at a national organisation. This gentleman had done an extraordinary job with ensuring the IT systems of the company were well architected and operated. He also had absolutely no clue when it came to professional software development. While he had had a few developers report to him throughout his career, he never really took interest in how things were different and what to do to professionalise and support them. Enter: me.
I told him what’s what.
If you know me, you’ll know that I take a “gently, gently” approach with almost everything – so my message was not harsh, abrupt, abusive, or disrespectful (yup, Momma brought me up right). In response a got a lot of scoffing and grunting, head shaking and eye-rolling, and general hostility. In the end I gave up, knowing that one of two things could happen:
- I triggered a tiny little bit of self-doubt which may flourish into some sort of investment in education and self-betterment
- Absolutely bloody nothing
Unfortunately I think the latter is more likely, but anyway.
Lead with heart
I’ve been there. I’ve had the pressure of having to be accountable for all things technology at a company. It’s not easy, and there’s certainly no time for “self-betterment”. I was in the exact opposite boat, I knew how software worked but had little to no idea when it came to hardware/systems. The only difference for me was that I admitted it. First to myself, then to my team, then to my management (at which point I was almost certain I’d lose my new title).
But instead, I got offered training, and coaching, and support. It was one of my first experiences of leadership. My leaders showed me that putting your ego aside and letting your insecurities be known can be a positive thing. Coincidently, it was also around the same time I started doing the same for my time.
Okay, maybe not a coincidence!
So here’s the thing: in a world where you have to put on a suit-of-armour just to get to work and deflect all the politics and unuseful craziness – try doing the opposite. Try leading from a place that opens your vulnerabilities to the people around you. They may not react well, but really – who cares? You’re living your truth and it’s the first step to becoming a leader worth following.
You might be a warrior at work, but at the end day that does not define you.