Today, VR is making appearances in hospital theatres. Drones deliver Amazon packages. Driverless cars join us on the road. Technology has permanently altered the way we experience the world. Which means industry leaders have the responsibility – and privilege – of transforming our daily lives through their work.
If you can imagine it, it’s near certain someone out there is already working to create it. So what does that mean for leaders in the tech industry? It’s time they look beyond the scope of what already exists, and design for a future limited only by their imagination.
Driven by a vision
Leadership can be a lonely but rewarding journey. When you’re doing things no one else has done before, there’s rarely a roadmap to success. The path less travelled is also less predictable. Having a vision can help guide decision making and ensure you’re taking exactly the right steps towards your goals. If you’re stuck, this vision can provide a sense of purpose and direction.
When we look at the most successful tech companies, despite their many differences, the leaders all have one thing in common: an unshakeable focus on their goals. A vision can only become reality through focused effort. Equally as important, is the capacity for finding other individuals who align with this vision. Teams who can visualise this future collectively can work towards it collaboratively.
Each day, tech leaders have to make decisions that determine tomorrow’s outcomes. There are no quick wins, or short term investments. Everything that’s done, is done with the future in mind. Without vision, it’s all too easy to get lost in the day to day responsibilities without considering whether they take you towards your goal.
One of the team
Authoritarian bosses are out, empathetic and collaborative leadership is in. It’s time to spend more time being a worker, and less time being the person in charge. Leaders who understand the full scope of their teams’ work, understand the impact their decisions have on day to day operations. They can make decisions that noticeably enhance their teams’ experience.
Leaders should be the first ones to jump in first, and then make room for their teams to innovate. Sometimes a decision needs to be made, but most of the time, teams just need the mental and physical space to make their own choices.
Being a leader means sharing opportunities and giving people chances to better themselves. Make your people the central focus, and company growth will follow.
Teams and leaders alike should be regularly asking and answering questions of each other. If you want to grow the company, you need to grow the people, and that means being open and receptive to criticism. There’s nothing worse than asking your team how they’re doing, and hearing a chorus of ‘fine!’.
Before we can build the future, we must build competency.
Upgrade yourself the way you would technology. Say yes to the courses, and say yes to learning something new. Don’t be afraid to move laterally through a business or an industry. One day, you could be leading people in the same roles you once had. Understanding their challenges and motivations will inform your understanding of how the decisions you make impact them.
I realised the value of experiencing lots of different roles when I worked at a bank. I started out as a database operator, but by the end of my time there, I had worked in import and export, loans and financial transactions to finally take on an IT leadership role. Over the years, I gained a unique insight into all of the different departments.
If you’re interested in something, don’t be afraid to pursue it. When you’re asked to do something new, don’t turn down the opportunity. Even if it doesn’t feel connected to your current path. Once you’ve achieved your goal, set a new one. Let the momentum of each success carry you through. And treat every setback as a new opportunity to test your skills.
As challenges grow more complex, the ability to connect disparate ideas and draw on a variety of skills will help you approach problem-solving more creatively. And if your team knows you’ve been in a similar position to them in the past, they’re more likely to trust in your ability to lead.
Responsibility is an acknowledgement of your ability. When someone guides you into a position of leadership, what they’re really telling you is that they trust you. And while I never set out to be a leader, looking back on my career, it’s been an accumulation of responsibility and sharing of trust. I set out with a vision, slowly brought people along with me, and gradually became a leader.
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