I wanted to post these leadership principles from when I was in the U.S. Army. I think they really apply to anyone in a leadership position and definitely in IT where cross-training, cross-team responsibilities and the very integrated nature of IT makes us one whole team. If the team isn’t moving efficiently then the whole team gets dragged down.
The 11 Principles of Armed Forces Leadership
- Know yourself and seek self-improvement.
- Be technically and tactically proficient.
- Develop a sense of responsibility among your subordinates.
- Make sound and timely decisions.
- Set an example.
- Know your people and look out for their welfare.
- Keep your people informed.
- Seek responsibility and take responsibility for your actions.
- Ensure assigned tasks are understood, supervised, and accomplished.
- Train your people as a team.
- Employ your team in accordance with its capabilities.
I think #1 really speaks for itself. If you aren’t always learning in IT, you are falling behind. There is no standing still.
The second point is making sure you have the necessary information to perform your job duties, but the second piece does escape some people. It is really important to know how to use your team to be the most effective. Less effective = Less efficient. Running “lean” isn’t an excuse. We live in a world of automation where we can do a lot of great things.
The team who clocks in at the beginning of the day and then clocks out at the end of the day are just along for the ride. A team who feels personal responsibility for what they are working on instills a certain level of pride and passion for what they do. This is how people stand out in a crowd and you can see who the future leaders will be.
Making a quick decision isn’t always the right one, but you don’t want to be plagued by “paralysis by analysis” as they say either. Get as much information as you can and make an informed decision in a reasonable amount of time. Disasters are mitigated by good planning and well informed personnel.
The fifth point really needs no explanation.
I really take #6 to heart. When leading a team, you have to take personal responsibility for them and their work. If its good work, it reflects good on your and your team. If it is poor, we know how that works as well. If a previously good employee is not having issues, take the time and find out why. Coaching and caring…not coddling…is the one of a leader’s foremost responsibilities.
Always make sure your people know the 50,000 foot view of what needs to happen. This is how you grow your employees from being the fine detail engineers or infantrymen into being future leaders. Understanding the scope of the battlefield or the business is just as important as knowing what that checkbox or cli command is going to do.
Take responsibility for your successes and your failures. Your team’s success and failure is your success and failure. Never lay off responsibility to a team member. You are the shield and they are the sword.
A good thing to do when assigning tasks is to give out the tasks, explain the parameters and have your team members communicate back to you the way they understood it. This will help prevent any communication issues. Poor or less than stellar communication is where most of the problems in IT happen. The customer told the project manager this thing. The project manager communicated this to the team manager. The team manager talked to the team. I’m sure, as a child, everyone played the telephone game at some point. Remember, communication is key!
Train your team as a team. Don’t silo people. Cross-training is imperative. Everyone has been on that 2am on-call phone call where they got saddled with something they knew nothing about and none of us have ever liked it. Cross-train your team as much as they are capable to fill any gaps you may or may not know about. The gaps will hurt when you and your team are caught off guard.
Know the abilities of your team. You can’t expect a 5 person team to do something in 3 weeks that will take a 10 person team 12 weeks to do. I see this happen in IT a lot and some of it is avoidable and some isn’t. Just be aware.