8 transformational traits for IT leaders

The role of the IT leader is more complex – and more challenging – than ever. Here are 8 key characteristics that make exceptional leaders stand out
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IT leadership used to be solely about managing systems. Not anymore. The role of an IT leader today is about getting your teams and your partners to imagine the unimaginable and make it so.

Here are eight characteristics of transformational IT leaders today.

1. Inspires others

Your most important job as an IT leader is to inspire those around you to think creatively. Sticking with the status quo simply because it’s easy or less expensive will almost always result in your team playing catch-up – or worse, spending countless hours fixing the damage that has resulted from a solution that is no longer viable.

2. Visionary thinker

Transformational IT leaders are innovative thinkers who keep their team members focused on the future. They encourage their staff to experiment and never punish people for trying new ideas, even if they might not work. They are masters at getting people to change their mindset, which is not an easy thing to do.

3. Puts people first

Strong leaders understand that without a great team, little can be achieved. They put their people first and are willing to make personal sacrifices if necessary.

[ Also read 3 E’s of effective leadership. ]

4. Champions personal development

Encouraging the development of your people is key to being a transformational IT leader. If you’re falling behind, you’re not advancing your skillset. These leaders don’t think twice about reimbursing an employee for a class or hiring a coach for someone in need. They do whatever it takes to ensure their people are well-positioned to advance in their careers.

5. Builds solid relationships

Everything you do in the organization impacts every part of the company. Transformational IT leaders know how to include other leaders and motivate them to help an IT project succeed. Fine-tune your communication skills to become a powerful influencer.

6. Curates talent

Transformational IT leaders don't make excuses. They take responsibility for whatever happens and keep their focus on fixing problems rather than assigning blame.

One of the biggest challenges facing IT leaders today is attracting talent. Transformational IT leaders understand the need to always be in recruiting mode and take every opportunity to keep their organizations top of mind in the competitive tech market. They speak at industry events and encourage their leaders to do the same. They are constantly networking with the end goal of securing the best talent for their team.

7. Willing to accept responsibility

IT leaders have a great deal of responsibility and are often beholden to their partners to perform as promised. However, there are many times when a vendor is unable to deliver on a promise. Transformational IT leaders don’t make excuses. They take responsibility for whatever happens and keep their focus on fixing problems rather than assigning blame.

8. Trusts their team members

Transformational IT leaders do not micromanage. They trust the people who work for them. They keep the lines of communication open and are available to answer questions. They communicate a clear vision and encourage their team members to determine the best way to carry out their assignments.

[ Related read: What's the difference between a manager and a coach? ]

If you’re still working on refining any of these skills, practice and consider working with an executive coach. A willingness to continue learning and growing to achieve these skills will itself help make you a transformational IT leader.

[ Discover how priorities are changing. Get the Harvard Business Review Analytic Services report: Maintaining momentum on digital transformation. ]

For more than 25 years, Roberta Matuson, president of Matuson Consulting, has helped leaders in highly regarded companies, including General Motors, Takeda, and Microsoft achieve dramatic growth and market leadership through the maximization of talent.