Why Become a Leader?

In an effort to move up the corporate ladder and achieve a higher salary everyone seems to be striving for a management position. Aside from the fact that it offers greater financial compensation and status few people know why they would want to be a manager. Many technical professionals are not really interested in people anyway, they are interested in technology. Many find dealing with people just a necessary annoyance.

I certainly was of that opinion. However, an interesting change took place. The more I learned about leadership and the way people behaved, the more I found them fascinating. My interest grew to the point that I now find people far more appealing than technology.

For those of you who have not been convinced that motivating and leading people is worth your time here are a few reasons that you might want to consider:

• Leadership is a valued skill

• Leadership gives you the ability to accomplish more

• Leadership allows you to progress up the corporate ladder

• Leadership give you skills that will last a lifetime (timeless skills)

• Leadership gives you skills that can be transferred outside of the IT/IS department

• Leadership give you the ability to help others grow

• Leadership is a much more effective people management technique.

Leadership Skills Enable Individuals to Reach Superior Positions

Most organizations do not provide financial compensation for technical staff at levels as high as management. The ability to lead, motivate, and communicate are valued higher than the ability to accomplish something that is technical in nature. You can argue whether this is an appropriate policy or not; however disputing it is most likely not going to change it. If you want to progress up the corporate ladder in your organization and move to higher salary ranges, you need to take on leadership roles; and do a good job of it.

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Leadership Gives You the Ability to Accomplish More

What if I could show you how you could take the very valuable skills that you have and multiply your productivity with them? What if you could perform several of them at one time? Sound impossible? Not with leadership!

How much time do you spend performing tasks that really don’t require your complete personal attention? Are there any tasks that you perform that could be delegated? Any responsibility of yours that you do not have to perform yourself can be delegated. You may argue that you alone have the technical expertise – well, it’s time to start using your time more wisely by training someone else.

Delegating as many tasks as possible gives you more time to share your knowledge and lead your team. Your team will be able to accomplish more as you guide it and you will indirectly accomplish more than you could by attempting to perform all of the tasks on your own.

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Leadership Allows You to Progress up the Corporate Ladder

People often have the misperception that by making themselves indispensable they are protecting their job (and possibly career). There is probably no other place in corporate culture where this attitude is more prevalent than in the IT and IS departments (my background). IT/IS staff are known for creating legacy systems that are so complicated and poorly documented that they are the only ones who could possibly maintain them and therefore, have job security.

Trust me; having gone through a particularly brutal corporate bankruptcy I can assure you that nothing provides you with job security.

Making yourself indispensable does not protect your job, but it does have another effect; it will stagnate your career. There is no way that an indispensable individual is going to be promoted out of his current job; after all, there is no one to fill the job after his promotion.

If you want to make sure that you are seriously considered for a position when it becomes available within your organization make sure that someone else can do your current job. This begins with cross training and matures into delegation; both skills of a leader.

Leadership Gives You Skills that Will Last a Lifetime

If you want to be hot in a technical community then you have to keep current with the technology. Technology continues to change at faster and faster rates; which causes skills to become obsolete, also at faster and faster rates. The tools of the early to mid 90s are barely mentioned compared to the current technologies. How much will current skills be valued five to ten years from now?

Although continuous learning is an admirable pursuit (and it certainly is one of mine), wouldn’t it be nice to learn some skills that won’t lose their value several years from now when the technology becomes obsolete. Leadership is such a set of skills. They never become obsolete and you can continually build upon the foundation of your knowledge.

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Leadership Gives You Skills that can be transferred Outside of Your Department.

Your specific area is a great place to work; however it is only one of many areas available within corporations. Although some of your area specific skills are transferable most of them are not. For example, being able to re-partition a hard drive does not help you in managing a customer service centre (unless it is a support centre at a hard drive manufacture). Being able to lead a team that routinely re-partitions hard drives however does give you a lot of the skills necessary to lead a customer service centre.

You may be thinking, “I would never want to be in customer service.” But wouldn’t it be nice to pursue other career options if opportunities present themselves and they turn out to be a fit for you.

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Leadership Gives You the Ability to Help Others to Grow

Some would argue that helping others is not something that they value; that it does not help them directly. This is obviously faulty thinking. Have you ever had someone assist you? I doubt that there is anyone reading this that has not benefited from the kindness of someone else. So why should someone feel justified in not wanting to help others even if he does not see a tangible benefit

In addition to the fact that helping people is the right thing to do there are many indirect benefits that you will gain from helping others grow and develop.

• It is a learning experience for you too. As you help others progress you will be gaining new skills yourself.

• You will build loyalty; loyalty that will manifest itself at the most surprising times. You will have a team that is willing to go the extra mile when it is needed rather than taking the attitude that it isn’t their problem and punching out at 5:00 pm.

• You will build friendships. As I mentioned in previous articles, there is often resentment towards newly promoted leaders. However, if you look after your employees rather than try to control them, they will both respect you and like you. Personally, I would much rather work with people who want to work with me than those who do not.

• You will build respect. Respect is something that is earned, not demanded. People will abide by your authority if they have to, but they will only do what is absolutely necessary. Earn their respect and they will go the extra mile to make sure that the job is done well.

• The organization will benefit. As your team grows stronger under your leadership the organization will realize the benefits.

• It is motivating not only for your team but also for you to see them grow.

Leadership is an Effective Motivation Technique

If you use any of the management techniques that involve controlling, berating, driving, criticizing, or insulting to motivate them, you are going to discover something important about them. You staff is not going to change their ways! You may get them to conform while you are yelling at them, but stop the negative motivation techniques for one moment and they will resort to their original ways.

Is it them? Are they slow learners? Are they stubborn? You teach them, you show them, you correct them, but every time you turn your back they relapse and return to their original behaviour.

Of course not! It is clear that the motivational techniques you are using are ineffective for the long term.

Here is one of the most important concepts that I know. The only way to get someone to do something is to make him want to do it. You can approach this in several ways.

• One way is to make their life so unpleasant until they do what you want and will eventually follow your orders. Although this technique may get quick results in the short term it is highly ineffective in the long term. Take away the unpleasantness and you have taken away the motivation for them. Every time you turn your back (or go away) the unpleasantness for preventing their return to old habits also goes away. The benefits for doing things your way also go away. The team returns to doing things the way that they are most comfortable with; thus appearing slow or stubborn.

• The other method is to inspire the team to want to perform the task. Motivate them; not only to do the task, but to also do it with quality and distinction. Once they are inspired it doesn’t matter whether you are standing over them or 5000 miles away; they will perform the job with excellence in either situation.

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Obviously this is just some of the reasons you might want to develop leadership skills. Each individual’s reasons may be different. The important thing to remember is that leadership skills give you many positive results for your efforts – regardless of the result that you are currently seeking.

Make the effort now to learn leadership skills and start reaping the results.