How to Develop as a Tech Leader
I spoke in my last article about ways to identify leaders in the tech space, but that doesn’t mean that leadership can’t be harnessed and developed. I believe that while some may drift towards certain aspects of leadership more naturally than others, everyone can develop and learn to lead. They perhaps maybe just haven’t found the correct vision beforehand to fall behind or haven’t quite known what they need to do to develop the necessary skills as a leader. Hopefully, this article will help address that last part for many.
There are many things one can do and the below list is by no means exhaustive but does offer enough threads in which to ensure you will be on the path to development. Some things you may already be doing, others are things worth considering. Whatever your development journey looks like though, make the most of it:
Don’t be a victim
This first point might come across harshly but is perhaps the most important point of any person’s growth. If you want to grow as a leader you need to make the committed decision that you are not going to be a victim. Don’t allow circumstance, opportunities or favour to get you down. If you put yourself down because you feel you are not good enough or don’t have the necessary skills or background to become a leader, you are always one step behind. While I’m not saying be arrogant (see next point), but certainly don’t make excuses for yourself.
Be humble - Accept that you need to grow
Humility is needed in any form of leadership but even more so in the tech space where technology moves quickly. You don’t need to know it all and should be comfortable with the fact that there is always more to learn and people around you that know more on certain topics. Don’t be complacent and keep learning and do your best to understand and grow your skills, while also leveraging off the knowledge around you.
Write a list of areas in your team or aspired role that you don’t know and do all you can to learn about those topics from whatever source you can.
Like not being a victim – you need to take ownership of your future progress. While victim mentalities often reflect on how we view our past, your growth is purely up to you and your ability to develop and grow your skills is something that you need to work hard on. The best way to take ownership of anything is to hold yourself accountable to goals and improvement areas and ensuring you deliver on them. Taking the below action will certainly help with this.
Get a mentor
There is only so much you can learn on your own which is why you need someone on the journey with you. A mentor doesn’t need to be someone with more experience than you (though that certainly helps) but they do need to be better at you in the specific areas you are trying to work on and have knowledge of how to get there. They should also hold you accountable for following up on specific actions to help you develop and grow.
Read as much as you can
Leaders read. End of story. Read as much as possible on about any topic that you need from leadership to software development to the specific tech stuff you need in your team. Again, the emphasis is not on becoming an expert, but becoming more knowledgeable and able to communicate in these matters effectively. Plus, the more you can earn and grow your knowledge set, the better decisions you are likely to make.
Reflect a lot
Take time out to look back and reflect on your action to identify things you can change. One of the biggest issues with our busy lives is that we move from deadline to deadline with often little contemplation for what we were doing in between. It’s important that we do put time aside to look back and assess our behaviours, decisions and actions and see how we can improve them or change. You can do this personally through your own introspection or with the help of others who provide you with regular feedback and advice on what to improve. Word of warning though opening yourself to criticism is not always easy, so be prepared to hear some things you might not like – but don’t take it too perfectly. We all have things to improve.
Set yourself small, achievable – but still challenging targets
No big changes take place without small goals being achieved. Set yourself targets that you can work towards and achieve every single day or even weekly if that’s too much. Each task should help move you closer toward where you want to go incrementally, but should also continue to stretch you, so that once certain things become easier, you start to up the ante.
Learn your weakness – and work on fixing them
Through all the above steps it should become apparent that you have many weakness and blind spots. There is nothing wrong with that, we all have them. What is important though is making an effort to fix them. This is not always easy depending on the weakness and some of these might be deep-rooted character issues. I do believe though that any weakness can be amended over time and provided you make a concerted effort to work on it and get regular feedback through the mentoring on your success of that, you can become learn to address these. They may never become something you are excellent in but minimising the detrimental impact it may have on your interactions with others and potential is important.
Play to your strengths
You can’t be good at everything and while you will need to address those weaknesses, you shouldn’t lose sight of your strength and keep playing to them. Whether it’s your technical mind, communication skills or emotional empathy, utilise these as best as possible. It won't necessarily make you a better leader if you don’t address certain weaknesses, but it will make your skillset that you bring more valuable.
Be patient – growth takes time
It takes time to develop and grow. While you should take accountability and ownership of growing in small things, large growth and character development does take a while and so give yourself the opportunity to grow. Also, never underestimate how much the small steps you make towards addressing your development areas significantly impacts your leadership ability.
There is no easy or immediate path to leadership, but you can certainly develop the skills needed to grow in this area. What is important to remember is that leadership comes in many forms. Not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur, CEO or big public speaker and most will be content with just leading in their area of expertise. That is perfectly okay because the best leadership comes from an area of passion. If you do want to increase your sphere of influence and develop as a leader through these above steps should help you on your journey and get you to a point where you can utilise your skills to their full potential.