Developing Leadership Skills for Women in IT

As technology becomes a strategic driver for enterprises around the world, leadership skills are increasingly important for IT professionals.   Today’s leaders are expected to advance the organization’s objectives, develop strong teams, make well-informed investment decisions and drive performance improvements – while always doing more with less.

That’s why IAUG has launched a new Empowering Women in Technology Community that will include webinars, meet-ups and coaching opportunities in the coming months. 

To kick things off, IAUG began a four-session Leading Edge series on October 8 with a hands-on webinar on “Changing Behaviors.”  Further sessions are “Engage Your Team” on October 22, “Growing Relationships Through Conversations” on November 5 and “Unleashing the Power of Your Network” on November 19. To register, go to the Live Webcasts tab on the IAUG site.

“This leadership series is a great opportunity for our members,” said IAUG Vice President Lori Wodrich, who welcomed more than 60 attendees (both men and women) to the first webinar. The two presenters, Jennifer Thornton, CEO and founder, 304 Coaching, and her colleague Jennifer Griffin, coach and program manager, provided a framework for success as an IT leader: 

1. Focus your energy.

2. Know when to leverage others.

3. Build your confidence.

4. Articulate your abilities.

5. Earn your seat at the table.

“Knowing who you are and what you deliver, gets you to that seat at the table,” said Thornton.

Preparing the foundation

Self-assessment is a good starting point for developing leadership behaviors, according to the presenters. Thornton encouraged attendees to identify their values as a leader, and write them down. “Mine are humanity, growth and psychological safety,” she said. “Others include honesty, integrity and transparency.”

Griffin noted the importance of understanding your career and personal goals, and thinking about any fears that may hold you back.  “Fear comes from the primitive side of the brain, whose only job is to keep us alive,” she said. “But fear slows down innovation, collaboration and learning new ideas – all the good stuff.”

Building your confidence and focusing on your aspirations are two ways to overcome those fears, Griffin added.  “I challenge you to come up with 50 aspirations related to your self, family, career and community – and post it where you can see it daily.”

Changing your behaviors

To change behaviors, Thornton encouraged attendees to understand leadership competencies, including the ability to lead yourself, lead others, lead change and lead from a distance.  “These are the soft skills used in multiple ways in the organization,” she said.  Thornton noted that competencies are different from skills, which are the abilities needed to complete a specific job function. “While acting on those hard skills, you may use a variety of competencies,” she added.

While coaching can help IT professionals advance their careers, Thornton said one of the real keys to change is developing the ability to self-coach.  “When we learn how to coach ourselves, it opens us up for developing the mindset of a leader,” she said.

IT professionals also need to apply learning in real-life applications, demonstrating those leadership competencies to colleagues and senior members of the enterprise.

Reflecting on the session, Thornton said, “Think about what must change for you to truly embody your values as a leader. Let your values be your North Star, and lean into them when managing your career.”

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