Not a Leader? Then Be a Multiplier

Posted on December 10, 2012. Filed under: Career Management, Work Issues | Tags: , , , |

IT leadershipDiscussions about corporate and small business leadership abound. If you hang out in LinkedIn groups or sit in on a work-related Twitter chat, you are bound to participate in some dialogue about leadership. By all accounts, it seems to be the holy grail of professional existence.

I mean, it is what we are all working for, to be a good leader, right?

Well, what if you’re not a leader? And you don’t really want to be?

I know…shock and awe, right? But some people don’t really consider themselves leaders, and they actually don’t want to spend their careers working toward that.

I know because I would be one of those people, and many of the techies that I work with are in the same boat. So does that make us…bad? Destined to low-level grunt work? Mean-spirited because we don’t have aspirations of parting the corporate Red Sea and leading whining people out of Egypt? 🙂

Honestly, it took me a long time to realize that I wasn’t a leader. I tried really hard to play the leadership game. I really did. I took the seminars. I read the books. I coveted the titles. But at the end of the day, I’m kind of, well, a loner. I like having a job that I can run with, create, experiment, fail, succeed. That doesn’t mean I am not willing to collaborate; in fact, I usually welcome that. But I don’t want to have to motivate you…dude…and I don’t want you to have to motivate me either. Let’s just, well, do our respective jobs!

What I have discovered along the way, however, is that although I may not be a leader, I can be a multiplier. Yes, a multiplier.

A multiplier is someone who:

  • Improves the atmosphere.

    We are the glue that makes the project work, so to speak. Without us, the project is probably struggling. We come in and make it better, and ultimately, we make the people around us want to do better too. Not because we trained them or led them, but because we influenced them by how we work. People pay attention to those who make things successful. You don’t have to give training seminars for them to notice.

  • Is referrable.

    We’re the person you want to tell others about. We’ve become dedicated to our craft and are excelling in it. And we’ve built our reputation on it. So pretty soon our network reach multiplies, not because of the throngs of followers we are leading around but because we stand out for the problems we solve that others cannot or won’t.

  • Brings the entrepreneurial spirit.

    I hear many companies talk about wanting this quality in their top talent, but very few are structured in such a way to appreciate it. They think that by looking for a bunch of leaders, they are going to find it, but actually they usually just end up with a lot of people jockeying for position. The reason is that the entrepreneurial spirit has less to do with titles and management and more to do with a willingness to take risks, risks that put you out there all by yourself on a limb. Some might call that a form of leadership, but really the entrepreneur is going to progress at all costs, not looking back to see who’s following and how many.

See, when I thought all my career would come down to is 1) climbing a corporate ladder, 2) managing people, and/or 3) counting success by the amount of people who report to me, I was…depressed…because I was in love with my craft of writing and editing. My techie candidates are often the same way. They are in love with what they do and want to stay close to their technical roots. Yet, in many company cultures, it’s move up the chain to management or stay down where you are.

To recruit top tech talent, more companies need to understand that for most hard-core techies, the lure of management is not that appealing and that this breed needs a different track. That doesn’t make them less valuable; in fact, it just might make them more so. After all, just how many chiefs do you need?

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Innovation Is More Than Just a Good Idea

Posted on October 29, 2012. Filed under: Technology, Work Issues | Tags: , , , |

Study the corporate atmosphere for any amount of time these days, and you will hear endless dialogue about the need for “innovation.” It seems to be the great American corporate battle cry. And for good reason.

As a career pro who works with technical candidates, the cry is especially loud.

Everyone wants to be the next Apple, and they are looking to their techie crowd to make that happen for them.

So, if you are so inclined, you can sit in on countless Twitter chats, participate in numerous LinkedIn groups, and take seminar after seminar on how to become more “innovative.” Some think it rests in having an entrepreneurial spirit (big corps need to act “smaller” and be more…loose), in having better technical skills, in combining technical with business background (more techie MBAs!), in having better people skills (aka engagement), and/or in having better vision (aka a good idea).

While these are all interesting discussions and have some merit to them, I believe they somewhat miss the mark of understanding what truly drives innovation (if they didn’t, then why aren’t we more innovative? I mean, just sit it on a Twitter chat for goodness’ sakes, and Poof! Innovation abounds, right?).

Because I am a word lover, I always like to start at looking not just at the meaning of the word but also at the history behind it.

Innovation as a word is traced back to the 15th century, primarily to the Renaissance (meaning “rebirth”).

And a well-known prime example of that era (and of embodying the newly minted word [but by no means new concept] “innovation”) is Leonardo da Vinci (a true Renaissance man if there ever was one!).

Not surprisingly, then, given its roots in the Renaissance and in da Vinci, the concept is closely aligned with the fields of art, philosophy, and religion. In many ways, scientific thought, and thus technological advancement, grew out of these realms. Imagination, which has always been tied in with art, philosophy, and religion, then put into action the thoughts and ideas spurred on by these fields, which led to scientific observation and to many, many attempts at invention. What resulted, then, from these metaphysical fields was innovation in other areas, like technology, science, and mathematics.

In today’s market, we like to lump everything into a “global” landscape, but then we segment out ourselves and each other by “subjects.” He’s a scientist. She’s a teacher. He’s a CIO. And then we hope and pray that each is an “out of the box” thinker in his or her respective subjects. (And the less we try to make the corporate world, corporate, the more corporate it becomes!)

But the innovative ideas brought forth with the Renaissance came out of inclusive thinking, the idea that you weren’t just a sculptor or teacher or whatever. Education in fundamentals like art, philosophy, religion, language, and mathematics was highly valued. In essence, it was at the core of spurring innovation. Today, we’re more worried about having business skills and leadership skills and big picture thinking as if they can be taught in “leadership” seminars . We want the innovation to burst out of mathematical manipulation or some concrete scientific process, but we don’t understand that productive imagination stems from an understanding of what has come before and of man and nature.

In other words, we need a deep well of knowledge to pull from, all of us, no matter what the primary occupation.

We just need, well, to be educated and in more than just programming languages and engineering calculus (and in leadership development taught by HR).

Nevertheless, corporations are going to have a hard time finding this type of talent. For one thing, the marketplace has spent many years now shunning the high-minded pursuits (I mean how many parents have lamented their son or daughter becoming a “philosophy” major because they knew companies didn’t care about it) and society is so addicted to gadgets and technology.

But something will have to give sooner or later. We are already desperate for leaders and visionaries.

So we can no longer afford to miss the forest for the virtual trees, so to speak.

What made Apple so innovative was a leader who had studied man and nature, who grasped behavior, and who could adapt what was already being developed to a shiny package that is too hard for many to refuse. He was more than just a one-dimensional person who loved technology (observe his time in India in search of spiritual enlightenment), and his education was anything but specific. Commenting on his college background, he said, “If I had never dropped in on that single calligraphy course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts.”

“Good ideas” and “technological innovation” don’t just happen because people are smart or presented with ideal teamwork conditions; there has to be more substance there. And too bad for us, more often than not, there’s isn’t.

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IT Resume Tips: IT Candidates Need to Highlight Team Experience

Posted on September 12, 2012. Filed under: CIO, Personal Branding, Technology | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

By Stephen Van Vreede (@ITtechExec)

IT Team Environments

The business landscape has changed dramatically for IT over the past few years. The days of IT folks or departments operating in a vacuum are gone, never to return. Although this is a good development for business as a whole, it has required a change to the way IT works.

IT professionals must have the ability to directly engage business leaders, users, and process owners. This direct interaction is designed to eliminate the gaps in communicating needs and requirements that have plagued the business in the past.

The IT Resume

IT candidates must be able to communicate their ability to work well in collaborative team environments on the resume. Employers and recruiters today expect IT professionals to possess this skill. But simply stating that you’re a “team player” is not good enough. Everyone says that. They want the candidate to prove it in the meat of the resume.

The ITtechExec Way

To arm yourself with more tools in your technical job search arsenal, we offer a free Technical Jobs report & Online Identity Assessment to our followers. We also offer a 10% discount to our followers. Take advantage of our offer just by signing up to follow this blog or go to our website ITtechExec (be sure to indicate in the “How did you hear about us?” box that you found us through our blog).

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