Why Leadership Is a Key IT Skill

Do you tend to focus on hard IT skills when you’re hiring IT professionals? Hard IT skills are easy to quantify. You’d never hire a Java developer who didn’t have Java programming experience. You’d never hire an iOS application developer who didn’t know Objective C and had never built an app before. But hard skills aren’t the only skills you need to think about when you’re hiring IT professionals for your team.

Soft skills are also essential. Soft skills are often thought of as personality traits, and they’re harder for candidates to acquire. One of the soft skills you should screen for when you’re hiring IT professionals is leadership. Even if you’re not filling a manager position, leadership is a key IT skill. When employees have this IT skill, they can benefit your team in the following ways.

Taking Initiatives

Employees with leadership skills take initiative. Initiative is one of the essential traits of good leaders. When employees take initiative, they don’t wait around for you to tell them what to do. They’re able to figure out what needs to be done, and they find new ways to do more than expected. These employees are able to lead by example.

For example, employees who take initiative could find bugs in your programs before you even asked them to look for bugs. Or, they could come up with a solution for a problem with your app before anyone else noticed the issue.

When you’re interviewing, ask candidates to describe a time they went above and beyond at work. If they can’t think of an answer, they may not have leadership skills.

Being Creative

As a manager, you know being creative is another part of being a good leader. Leaders are presented with complicated problems, and they need to figure out ways to solve them. The answers to problems aren’t always staring you in the face. Sometimes, you need to get very creative to solve problems.

For example, if there’s a programming problem, an employee with leadership skills could think of a creative solution. The employee may try looking at the problem from another angle, like considering it in non-programming terms. Employees without leadership skills may just sit around and wait for someone else to take leadership and find a creative solution.

During interviews, ask candidates to explain a time they came up with a creative solution for a work problem.

Being Responsible

Leaders are responsible. They take ownership of their decisions, and they have a strong work ethic. They admit when they make mistakes, instead of trying to cover them up. They’ll accept blame for their errors, and they won’t try to point fingers or blame other members of the team.

When employees have this key IT skill, your team will get along better. When employees don’t have this skill, they may hide their mistakes and blame others. This can damage the team’s morale, and they may not get as much work done. When your employees have leadership skills, they’ll own their own mistakes and get along better.

Ask candidates how they handled a big mistake at work to see how responsible they are.

Building Relationships

When people have leadership skills, they can build relationships with people around them. As a manager, you know how important this is. If you couldn’t build relationships with your team and your colleagues, you wouldn’t be able to get much done.

Employees with leadership skills are able to connect with their coworkers and build trust. This trust can have significant effects on your team. A lack of trust can lead to lower productivity and poor communication; improved trust has the opposite effect.

To find out if candidates can successfully build relationships, ask them to describe a time they had to work with a coworker who they didn’t like – and how they handled it.

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