Today's companies can’t afford bad leadership. But the tech industry is lagging behind. "Many are still mistaken about competence and self-confidence," says Marjo Käyhkö, Software Development Manager at Kindred Group.
Agile working has now become a necessity for businesses. A concept shift has taken place and the recipe for success for many companies is to spend lots of money on recruiting the greatest talent. But what about leadership? Yes, here, many still have quite a long way to go.
"As a leader, you should be humble, empathetic, genuinely interested in your employees and good at conflict management,” says Marjo Käyhkö, who has 13 years of experience in the tech industry. She sees how a traditional image of a manager as a strong leader (often thought to be the alpha-male barking orders) obscures the fact that ideas of leadership have now changed. “Research shows that what we previously considered to be 'soft' traits, are now vital for successful leadership today. Soft skills and qualities are just as important as ‘hard’ traits when you are recruiting,” Marjo says. "But in an industry where many are promoted because of their technical competence and a strong sense of self-confidence, we don’t always know if the new boss knows what it takes to lead others."
Marjo shares five tips for a modern leader:
Create a safe work environment
A work environment where employees don’t feel emotionally secure hinders concentration and creativity. It could be rumours of a reorganisation or a meeting culture with a climate where not everyone feels they can express themselves. “Your employees must feel that you, as a manager, are able to tackle these types of issues and create a climate that allows people to feel comfortable addressing them during a larger meeting or similar context. If you sense worry among your team, be proactive and address their concerns,” says Marjo.
Drop the ego and dare to change
A well-led team usually generates better ideas, - something an overly confident, stubborn manager risks missing out on. “As a manager, it may not be easy to admit you’re wrong and it can feel uncomfortable to be challenged by your entire team. You have to let go of your ego and show you can be wrong; that you are open to learning from those around you.”
Give the group space to grow
In a good team, everyone has the ambition to develop and set individual goals for the future. But as a manager, it’s not enough to give your employees the opportunity to attend courses and continue their education. To really create a supportive and creative environment, you need to get to know them as individuals, see their strengths and think of ways to help them develop:
“Supporting and encouraging everyone in the group as an individual requires continual effort from you as a manager. But only then can you get the best out of everyone. I’ve had managers who were completely uninterested in me and my future; at worst, prevented me from growing. No need to explain what that does to one’s creativity and efficiency.”
Create diversity in the group
With more diversity in your team, you get more varied experiences, approaches, ideas, and methods added to your toolbox, which fosters development and growth. If everyone in the group looked at challenges and solutions in the same way, you wouldn’t get very far. You must recruit in a smart way to find international talent, as well as more women - something the tech industry needs to improve on.
"The absolute worst excuse is 'But no women are looking for our jobs!' Then you, as a manager, have to work hard for this to change." Marjo explains. "For women, changing jobs is always a risk, because we don’t know what the situation will be at the next job. Women must dare to feel that it’s worth taking the risk. "
Create a strong team spirit
This goes hand in hand with the first point about security. As a manager, it’s your responsibility that everyone feels an important part of the team, otherwise, it’s very difficult to get people to work together. A person who feels like an outsider will not contribute much and it will be difficult for you to get the most out of them. The recruitment phase is incredibly important for creating the right conditions for this also. Marjo concludes:
“I have said no to incredibly sharp developers because their inability to work in groups would create problems. If you recruit the wrong people, it doesn't matter if you follow the advice above."