IT Management

How Can a Technology Leader Motivate Valuable Action Within an Organization

Often I find myself thinking, “how can a technology leader motivate valuable action within an organization?”

To understand why I ponder this topic, you need to know about a belief that I hold to be true.

I believe that happiness begets motivation; which is very personal and therefore unique to an individual. It requires people to play an active part in planning their own path. It requires leaders to help people uncover opportunities that contribute to happiness while keeping focus on how they fit into the overall roadmap of a company.

This simple concept has guided me as a leader for quite sometime. Fortunately, technology offers a fertile ground to allow individuals to discover their path while contributing to a greater goal. In every technology organization, we get the opportunity to:

  • Think analytically

  • Explore and experiment

  • Grow our emotional intelligence

  • Be creative

  • Collaborate

  • Practice

Assuming we know the above is (at least partially) a true foundational list of motivational drivers, technology leaders can’t simply say, “go be creative” or “think analytically” – it’s not effective. We need to be transformers.

At this point in my professional life, I have observed (often up close and personally) three types of leaders:

1

Business leaders know everything about a business, including where the highest impact jobs exist and, therefore, opportunities for people to add value.

2

People leaders know everything about people and teams - strengths, weakness and ambitions. They understand the daily balance (struggle, really) that individuals achieve between adding value and growing professionally.

3

Transformational leaders are a (very) unique combination of the two. Transformers not only know how to identify roles where individuals add immediate value within an organization, they are also acutely aware of how roles change over time and the impact change has on building or decaying a person's motivational foundation.

Early on, I believed that only transformational leaders were important to a business and we should all strive to transform; perhaps because that’s precisely what technology intends.

While I believe that technology leaders need to be transformational, I now understand the need for all three types of leaders as representations of three parts of the business.

The first (business leadership) represents the growth of a company – where we are headed. The second (people leadership) represents the foundation of a businesses capability – where we are. The last (transformers) represents the way forward – how we will get there.

All three are necessary. However, the transformer often has a very unique challenge because he/she does not control the starting or finishing line (if there are such things in business). The transformer needs to strike a balance between people and business WHILE ALSO plotting a way forward.

Being a technologist (and thus a transformer) offers many challenges, however there is a very silver lining. Technology leaders directly influence (if not outright control) “how” we move forward through a company’s roadmap. Given this authority, we also command the latitude of creating the framework (environment and practices) that will get us there.

While designing that framework, the wise transformer will consider the motivational foundation of the unique individuals that we lead.

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Nearly 20 years ago CJ began developing and was hooked. Not necessarily on the art of software development, but the dynamic of the teams and processes that make or break projects. He has held leadership roles at some of Chicago’s most innovative tech companies and has launched various successful ventures of his own.