The politics of leadership isn’t as cut and dry as you may have been led to believe. While there are hundreds, if not thousands of books, podcasts, articles, and gurus lining up to outline exactly what it means to be an effective leader, the truth of building, motivating, and leading a stellar team is rarely attainable in an easy how-to, bundled manual of resources.
In fact, growing into a productive leader is more about doing and less about theorizing. Sure, there are benefits to reading up and staying abreast of leadership styles, trending industry news, and the latest thought leadership pieces surrounding the issue, but the real magic of building this skill is created in the work. Especially in the tech industry.
As the managing director at ExitLag, a company that offers proprietary online gaming software, I’ve learned a thing or two about leadership in a technological environment. Developing the ExitLag solution, which is designed to reduce the dreaded “lag” that hurts the online gaming experience, the importance of investing in the overall development of my team became clear immediately. Here’s what I have gleaned from my time in the field, my expertise, and my position.
Learn to Change Direction with Confidence
Drawing from my personal background and leadership story, I can tell you that after graduating from Purdue University with a degree in engineering the value of adaptability in a professional setting swiftly came into focus. I was concerned that finding myself cemented at a company as an engineer might limit my growth and realized that the higher-level positions I sought would require, not just more education, but an ability to think outside of the box.
Directing strategy and driving business growth were of the utmost importance for me, so as I finished my MBA and was presented with an opportunity to join ExitLag as a business analyst, I focused on investing in myself while further developing my leadership muscles. Sweat equity, an emphasis on personal and team development, agility, and thought leadership are the skillsets that propelled me into my current position.
Flexibility is key, and when I’m talking to my employees about professional development, I always encourage them to trust their intuition. It’s always beneficial to gain knowledge and industry experience. My engineering background is still particularly useful in my current role because it gives me perspective on technical challenges and opportunities. I think the lesson here is that professionals shouldn’t be afraid to change directions and investigate new industries while embracing novel experiences.
Investing in Yourself
The best thing you can do for the trajectory of your career can be summed up in just five words: spend time investing in yourself. This includes professional development, but also personal enrichment. Most people take no issue with making the choice to invest in material things, like a new car or a bigger house. But, for some reason, the idea of spending their hard-earned cash on self-improvement falls flat.
Take time to explore your interests and invest in your own knowledge and experience. Whether you’re taking a foreign language class or learning to code, it’s vital you invest time and resources into your own growth. My recommendation is to embrace something challenging. Don’t play it safe. That’s how we grow as leaders. Reading extensively is also crucial. I’m an avid book reader, and it’s one of the best ways to tap into thought leadership in your industry and gain invaluable context.
I speak from experience here. My education as an engineer was a massive investment in myself that continues to pay dividends. My chosen vocation helped me immensely when it came to problem-solving as engineers must approach problems from multiple viewpoints. This aids me every day when I work with various departments within ExitLag, allowing me to see issues from a lot of different perspectives.
Helping Others Become Their Best Selves
A company is a lot like a ship. When it’s sailing forward everyone benefits. As a leader, I make myself available to all employees seeking guidance because they are essential to keeping the ship afloat and pointed in the right direction.
Growing into a leadership position is about listening and helping your employees to become their best selves. Through active listening, creativity and passion will flourish, and you’re setting your company up for success. Total alignment isn’t always possible or plausible, but this presents opportunities for mentorship. Leaders who are open to new ideas will see their companies soar, and enjoy the benefit of more active, engaged, and productive employees.