What every IT Manager needs to know - so they can manage their people as well as they manage their servers

There are 5 key ideas that every technician needs to master in order to successfully make the leap from a technical career track into leadership. If you want to go from Sys Admin to CTO, then these are for you. Here is a brief introduction to each:

Leaders unleash POTENTIAL

As a leader, almost everything you are accountable for will be delivered by the people that you lead. You won’t be writing the software, your developers will. You won’t be running the backups, your Ops team will... and so on. This means that your leadership ability, or lack of it, will be the largest single factor influencing your personal success. 

Leadership transforms potential into the desired results by organising talent.  

In other words, Leaders make something happen (desired results) that has never happened before (potential) through other people (organising talent). 

The import phrase is through other people. A leader’s job is to provide an environment for their team to excel – and ensure that they do!

Leaders do things on PURPOSE

As a leader, you must provide the essential WHY that motivates your team to work hard and deliver exceptional results. People want to know why things need to be done a certain way and why you are asking them to ensure a certain deadline is hit. You could try ‘because I said so’ but that rarely produces the desired results and intelligent, capable people are unlikely to hang around very long in an environment which is led in that manner. 

As the ancient proverb says: without a vision, the people perish. 

A clear purpose makes the unbearable bearable and the boring endurable. 

Leaders ensure their teams make PROGRESS

You can make progress or you can make excuses. You cannot do both. 

You and your team are not paid to be busy, although we often behave that way. You are not paid for your time - although that is often how employment contracts are written.

You are not paid for the hour, you are paid for the value that you bring to the hour.

Working on a project brings no value - but completing the project does bring value. Do not allow your team to focus on all the things they are 'doing' instead change the language of your daily updates to ask what has been finished.


In the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey builds his ideas on the principle that being effective is a combination of getting the job done and protecting the means of doing the job. Many leaders focus on the first half – getting the job done, but neglect the second – protecting the people, places and tools needed to do the job. Think of it in terms of the Captain of a battleship. 

His first duty is to protect his ship, second to complete the mission. 

For many leaders today, we focus on completing the mission, and neglect the ship. 

Leaders have a PROCESS

As leader, it is your responsibility to ensure there is a process in place so that your team and organisation learns from events – whether they are ‘successes’ or ‘failures’ – they are all opportunities to learn and improve. Do not waste them! 

Processes bring consistency and predicability. Processes run the business, people run the processes.

You can learn more about each of the 5 Foundations of Leadership and how they apply to a career in IT in my book - and you can download your own copy for free for a limited time: www.cool-waters.co.uk/foundations