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Campus to Career Blog Series: Defining Leadership Styles in the Workforce

In its 2018 study, “Closing the Technology Leadership Gap,” business and technology consultancy West Monroe Partners found that leadership is technology employees’ most underdeveloped soft skill. Specifically, the study cites the lack of focus on soft skills, such as teamwork and leadership in the workplace as a cause of productivity, innovation, and growth issues.

To Lead or Not to Lead

There are two primary paths you can take early in your career, one that concentrates on a specific talent and one that gradually moves into a leadership position—both of which are necessary to a company’s day-to-day operations and success. You will most likely exit college with knowledgeable skills and as you evolve in the workforce discover you have a precluded talent to do one thing really well. You might be an expert in the backend, the app, the blockchain, or another portion of the stack and focus on being an expert contributor in that one area. However, if you look to advance your career into a leadership role, you’ll need to expand your breadth of knowledge to learn the entire business in some detail and supplement that expertise with the intangible skills of a leader, while also developing your own style of managing people.

“Companies are expanding the role of their teams and employees to empower them to enhance efficiencies,” said Robin Diana, Training Specialist, Talent Management, LED FastStart. “Leaders have to have the ability to recognize strengths, coach employees to master skill sets, then delegate, striking the right balance of empowerment, support, guidance and challenge, so that the employee can be successful.

Traits, Attributes and Skills of a Leader

Some of the primary traits of a leader entail the following.

  • Developing adaptability
  • Demonstrating ethics and integrity
  • Displaying drive and purpose
  • Exhibiting leadership and followership statures
  • Increasing your capacity to learn
  • Managing yourself; increasing self-awareness
  • Communication
  • Accountability

Most people who have an inclination to step into a leadership position exhibit all or some of these qualities, and where they fall short, they are willing to seek assistance and training to improve.

Setting Out on the Path to Leadership

“If you’re looking to advance as a leader one day, just coming in as a software engineer and planning to maintain the basics won’t get you far,” stated Ceceille Palmer Malcolm, Scrum Master, DXC, New Orleans. “The IT workforce is rapidly changing and leaders need to keep up with trends in analytics, application and Cloud services. Artificial Intelligence is the future and right now good leaders in that field are learning how to advance in that area.” Palmer Malcolm also pointed out that being able to balance focusing on yourself, while contributing to the team, is an important part of growing as a leader. “In our project teams, we don’t have bosses,” she said. “We have an environment where we know what we need to do to solve the business challenge. You have to understand that you are your own leader and self-manage your time and tasks. Also, good leaders never stop learning, even if that means being enlightened by a person that is your junior.”

Leadership Styles

Peter Pappas, Human Resources Business Partner, DXC, New Orleans believes many of the best leaders in the technology field are those who empower their team members to undertake tasks and make decisions for themselves. There are actually six basic types of leadership that are important to understand.

  • Autocratic Leadership: leadership based on control with little or no feedback; works well in sectors like the military, but is rarely found in the tech world.
  • Laissez-Faire Leadership: the exact opposite of the Autocratic style, it allows for creative freedom, but may lack in discipline and structure.
  • Servant Leadership: these leaders live by a people-first mindset and believe that when team members feel personally and professionally fulfilled, they’re more effective and more likely to produce great work regularly. Because of their emphasis on employee satisfaction and collaboration, they tend to achieve higher levels of respect.
  • Transformative Leadership: this style encourages employees to think critically and look at the bigger picture in their approach, which is popular in the technology arena.
  • Hands-on, Participant Leadership: collaborative and valuing employee opinion and input during the decision-making process, this leadership style brings the best ideas to the table and puts the leader in a co-worker type role that’s often respected by the employees. However, this style takes a while to develop.
  • Transactional Leadership: This is a straightforward leadership style with a focus on work, reward and processes that drive consistent results.

While choosing the leadership style that best fits your personality and your team, it’s good to be familiar with all of these types because you may need to change and adapt to your specific team or the circumstance presented.

“Being a good leader also means understanding what motivates people,” said Pappas. “Recently, I was working on a project to speed up time for billing. Understanding that the sales team is driven by getting their commission sooner helped me to better communicate my ideas to them and advance the project.”

Seeking out ways in college courses and extra-curricular activities like clubs and volunteer organizations can help determine early on if a leadership path is something you want to pursue, while also providing a foundation to build upon as you begin your career.

This blog is part of our continued “Campus to Career Blog Series.” Read the earlier posts and learn how to combine the proficiencies you mastered in college with the essential business skills needed to navigate the workplace and so you can learn how to land a high-quality tech job and advance quickly.

And after graduation, don’t forget to use Louisiana Job Connection to find your new career!