The Role of IT: Lead, even if you are not a “Leader”

I recently wrote about the need for IT to be part of the decision making process in an organization. Some of you may believe that I am preaching to the choir, but it hasn’t changed anything at your company. Those at the top still see you as simply a service department to fix problems and keep things running.

Jessica Love, in an article titled “Don’t Wait to Be Asked: Lead,” makes a case for why you don’t have to be given the title in order to lead. Many of her recommendations are similar to the points that I have been laying out about the role of IT. Here are some steps to follow, combining some of her points and things that I have said in the past.

1. Show that you care: Get to know people throughout the organization. When they have a problem, don’t just spend enough time with them to fix it, but sit down with people and care about them as human beings. (see also The Role of IT: It’s about People)

2. Show that you understand their problem: As IT people, we sometimes have solutions for problems that people don’t even have. Take the time to sit down, listen to what is happening, and ask questions to understand not just what the person is asking about, but find out what they are actually trying to do. Sometimes they don’t know even know there is a better way to do the task. One of the biggest complaints I hear about IT people is that they come in, quickly do something on the computer, and then leave without explaining what they did and why. (see also The Role of IT: Business Partner)

3. Demonstrate that you can provide workable solutions: You have to build trust if you want people to listen and even follow you. As we all know, trust is earned, not granted. The more that you help people solve their problems, not just the ones that they ask you about, but the ones that really help them do better work, the more they will be willing to listen when you come up with an idea that changes what they do and how they work.

4. Show that those solutions align with the strategic vision of the company: Every once in a while, we have to stop, stick our head above the fray, and look ahead. Talk to the organizational leadership and find out which direction they are trying to go. Then make sure that the solutions you are recommending and implementing support that larger vision. (see also The Role of IT: Believe in the Mission)

5. Lead: Don’t wait for somebody to ask your opinion or to put you in charge of a team. Phil Cooke makes the point that if you want to see something change, don’t just stand around talking about, but start taking action.  Identify problems that you can help solve, then don’t just make a recommendation, but do something about it. Don’t step on other people’s toes to do it, but work alongside them. It all comes down to trust…do people trust you to be working for them and not just yourself?

I wish that I could guarantee that this system will get the attention of the top level people in the organization, but I can’t. What I can guarantee is that you will start to see that you are making a difference in the life of the company and you will be more energized by your job. Other people will take notice of that, and even though you may not be their “leader,” they will follow.

This post is part of a series looking at the Role of IT. The theme is moving IT out of the back office, out of a service department and reactionary role, and allowing an organization to fully realize the potential of this strategic asset.


photo credit: mrholle Light via photopin (license)

One thought on “The Role of IT: Lead, even if you are not a “Leader”

  1. Thanks. Very true. It applies to almost any service occupation, facilities maintenance, repair, upgrade, health care, etc. People are usually curious about what others do that benefits them directly or indirectly.  If you’re not immediately available people realize they may have to handle it independently. to a degree. In some small way conversation with them can give them future freedom with issues.  They like that freedom to be independent.


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