Common IT leadership challenges

Continuous improvements in technology bring many advantages, yet it also creates some common leadership challenges. Tech leads often experience these challenges on many levels, both within their team and with a variety of internal and external stakeholders. Strong leadership in IT is essential to navigate a smooth path through rapidly changing environments.

Here’s how tech leads can overcome four common leadership challenges.

1. Implementing change

By definition, IT leaders need to be effective in implementing change as software and processes evolve on a regular basis. Gone are the days where an updated program was tested, evaluated and then introduced with support and backup. Nowadays, software is more likely to be provided as a service, updating automatically and remotely. This makes it challenging to manage change for your team and other parts of your organisation.

Leadership in IT also requires deft skills in implementing change of a more personal nature, when roles, responsibilities and organisational requirements change. Managing teams through change is one of the most common leadership challenges – from guiding, supporting and motivating people to being able to juggle the political and administrative aspects of change. And it’s particularly difficult when that change takes place over a long time.

The successful tech lead will clearly communicate the benefits of transformation while empowering change agents to implement changes. For an easier path, begin well before the revolution arrives to identify supporters and opponents of your intended adjustments and use that knowledge to build a coalition of the willing.

Create a sense of urgency and be the change you want to see in your organisation.

2. Vendor management

With the extensive use of Software as a Service (SaaS), IT leaders are likely to work across numerous areas of a business. They engage with and manage both software experts internally as well as external vendors. In fact, over 70 per cent of IT leaders say they spend up to half of their budget on external vendors.

The availability of anything as a service can reduce upfront costs while increasing the reliability and responsiveness of that service. However, each vendor is another relationship for the tech lead to manage that comes with an opportunity cost – time that could be spent on other tasks. In some cases, such as cyber-security, there may be multiple vendors providing separate elements of the solution.

IT leaders must become masterful at vendor selection to streamline the process of searching, vetting and selection. You have to leverage your relationships with vendors to develop partnerships that provide strategic advice to help your organisation achieve its goals. Use their knowledge of the field and other organisations like yours to help you make better decisions for your limited resources.

3. Managing teams

With all this helpful technology around us, it’s easy to forget that the most common leadership challenge is managing a team. Commonly compared to herding cats, managing a team is about more than simply getting people to do what you want them to do.

Is there a non-hierarchical structure in your team? Tech leads often work with equal weight team members, which heightens the importance of trust for good working relationships. The ability to build trust depends on your ability to acknowledge good behaviour and call out bad behaviour while having a deep understanding of each of your team members and their expertise.

Leadership skills can be learned and improved, which means that all tech leads can get better at managing teams. You must develop your ability to communicate inspiration and to coach your team to think about challenges in new ways.

4. Motivating others

Leadership in IT involves holding employees to account for producing the required results and it’s not uncommon to emphasise the result while ignoring performance. These leaders are seen as nice people, but their management style is seen as indulging and they lose the respect of employees.

It’s equally ineffective to maintain strict rules around performance, thinking that they’ll lead to satisfactory results. Instead, they lead to micromanagement and a distinct demotivation of all concerned.

To motivate others, tech leads must take an integrative approach and apply equal importance to producing results and performance.

Build on your leadership experience

The best way to master implementing change, vendor management, managing teams and motivating others is to build on your existing experience. Taking the time to reflect on your work so far can reveal what you already know and highlight areas where you focus on improvement. Deakin University’s Master of IT Leadership will help you consolidate your existing technical knowledge skills and enhance your ability to lead in a project or specific area.

The Master of Information Technology online degree at Deakin is an opportunity for you to use your work experience to gain a master’s degree. Reach out to our Enrolment team on 1300 043 524.