Good money is being wasted on trying to teach leadership, when a good leader knows that responsibility, respect and reward are the keywords of empowerment, says Colin Beveridge.
If you ask most IT staff what they really want from their managers I am certain that leadership will be fairly low down their list of personal priorities.
And yet too many people have spent too much time worrying about leadership and far too much money has been spent on expensive leadership training; money that, in most cases, could have been better spent.
When it comes to leadership, you've either got it or you haven’t got it and no amount of third-party-led personal development will ever convert you miraculously into a natural leader.
Even so, like many IT directors, I have sat through dozens of conference sessions where enthusiastic speakers have tantalised the audience with the unlikely prospect of learning leadership, without ever recognising the real damage done by diverting managers’ attention away from their real task of management, ie making the best use of the resources entrusted to them.
It is time to stop deluding ourselves about leadership and its insidious partner in crime: empowerment. These are, by nature, immeasurable commodities and too heavily weighted towards the narcissistic needs of the manager.
Think instead about the fundamental needs of our workforce and concentrate for a change on the good old, timeless three R’s of employment: responsibility, respect and reward; these are the absolutely essential factors for personal satisfaction and performance.
Each one of us has our own personal comfort zone when it comes to seeking or accepting responsibility. The trick is to make sure we carefully balance the responsibility equation, between the ability and ambitions of the individual and the needs of the organisation; any imbalance will be a recipe for dissatisfaction, probably on both sides.
That is why responsibility is important, even if circumstances do not always allow us to achieve complete fulfilment. I suppose that most of us reach an accommodation as far as responsibility is concerned.
But I have never met anybody who will happily compromise themselves when it comes to the second R: respect.
We all need to feel respected for who we are and what we do. This is not negotiable and a shortfall in respect is the primary source of all relationship failures. We should also recognise that mutual respect is a commodity that should always be freely given unless, or until, behaviour indicates to the contrary. In my book, you can only un-earn respect and it can take a long time to repair, once damaged.
That brings us to the last of our three R’s: reward. Most of us are not in this business for the love of IT; we do it to earn a living and we need to feel fairly and properly rewarded for our efforts.
However, although our focus may be biased strongly towards the financial aspects of the reward equation, we do need to understand that there are frequently other, non-financial, considerations to be taken into account when dealing with reward.
A good manager is aware of what an individual really needs and deserves, as the basis for a fair reward settlement, albeit within the prevailing budgetary and market constraints.
So, stop worrying so much about cosy, fashionable words such as leadership and empowerment. Because, to be honest, that is exactly what we will get anyway if we do the three R’s properly.
Colin Beveridge is an independent consultant and leading commentator on technology management issues. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org