From Technical to Leadership
By Tony Daniello, AVP, Support Services, CDI
Learning how to be a good leader isn’t easy – and it’s not something I take lightly. Over the last few years I’ve documented my leadership journey in a series of blog posts. I’ve continued that journey, but life happened, and I took a little blog hiatus.
The COVID-19 pandemic really allowed me to reflect on my journey and ensure that I’ve been the best version of myself that I can be. Not just for me, but also for my team. Leadership is a continuous journey of never-ending improvements, and let’s face it, if you don’t improve yourself, then making improvements to your team will be more difficult.
So, what makes a good leader? I answer that question and more in the following recap:
Leave your ego at the door: Plain and simple, you can’t be egotistical when you’re a leader or a mentor. The people you lead will be a reflection of yourself and can be impacted by your actions, especially if actions are louder than words. Remember that the person you’re mentoring will have their own ideas and thoughts. Be open minded! Sometimes the teacher is the student.
Leadership is a journey – it will not happen overnight: Patience and time are a leader’s best friend. You can be regarded as one of the best technical engineers in your company, but that achievement didn’t happen overnight, and neither will leadership. Some key tips are: start with the end state in mind, and encourage progressive engagement and responsibility. You need to perform the actions of a leader before becoming a leader.
Build trust, be a good leader and people will want to work with you: Building trust isn’t easy, especially if you’re now the leader of a team that you were once a part of. Your team might identify with you a bit differently as a manager, as opposed to a peer. This will be a blocker, but don’t get discouraged! You’ll just need to work a little extra harder to build that trust from the ground up. The best way to do this is to believe and extend your core values, be an inspiration, and provide positive recognition to the team. Take the spotlight off yourself and promote other people’s talents. In the end, people will want to work with you once you reach a pinnacle level of trust.
Being called a leader and acting like one are different: Just because you’ve been promoted to a leadership position, doesn’t mean that you already are one. There are aspects that need to be understood and changed in your behavior, such as encouraging positive reinforcement, never belittling people (but rather lifting them up), and no matter how good of a technical person you were, not everyone may reach that same level.
Experience will play a pivotal role in developing a team: As team members start to mature into seasoned engineers, it’s up to the leader to help the engineer focus on areas of technical interest, as well as areas of need within the company. Maintaining this balance is what will help coach each member to the next level of their career. It’s important to recognize the individuals core strengths, continue to build the culture of passion and resilience, and leverage prior experience.
Self-reflection is key: Self-reflection really made me want to reinitiate this blog series. And with self-reflection comes a way to better yourself… leading to ways to rediscover your passion, refocus your energy and goals, and regroup based on areas of improvement.
Learning how to be a good leader takes time and effort, and what got you here won’t get you there. Most recently, I had the opportunity to talk with a leadership coach who focused directly on my journey from technical engineer to leadership position (you can check out my full interview here!).
I would like to thank Jeff Harmon for the great conversation and the resurge of fuel in my leadership tank.
If you’re interested in learning more about the technical to leadership journey – whether it’s something you’re thinking about, or something you’re in the middle of, then I strongly urge you to check out this eight week course that Jeff and company are hosting (with a guest appearance or two from yours truly). Jeff was gracious enough to leverage my opinion on the formatting of the course and I’m very proud to be part of it.
As always, remember that leadership is a journey and I wish you success as you continue the voyage.