Monday, May 10, 2010

Age and Leadership 2 – Stayin’ Hip

Last week’s post on age and leadership sparked some lively debate on various discussion boards. The range of issues brought forward by various people and their points of view resulted in a continuation of the topic with this week’s post. Many thanks to the people who posted their point of view and sparked debate and discussion. After all that is what a blog is all about.

Let us start at the beginning. As IT projects usually start with requirements definition, let us also start with the requirements necessary for leadership positions. After all how can we discuss the effect that age has on leadership abilities when the leadership abilities themselves are undefined? Some of the criteria for effective leadership are:

  • Communication skills

  • Problem solving skills

  • Adaptability to change

  • Time management

  • Stress management

  • Interpersonal relations and teamwork

  • Ability to set goals and articulate a vision

  • Managing conflict

This is, of course, not a comprehensive list, but it does cover most of the criteria. The interesting thing about this list is that it has been true and relatively unchanged for millennia. So how does the current age of information and technology affect these criteria? How are these issues affected by the fact that we are in the year 2010?

Adaptability to change has never been as important and that too, at all levels. Market changes, customer preference changes, technology changes, methodology changes, tools and technique changes are all occurring at incredible speed. Of course not all changes are necessary or even good. However, the ability to make the decision on which change to implement is necessary and this can only be achieved by being very well informed and in touch with what is current.

Furthermore, all the other criteria now require knowledge of the latest tools and techniques to accomplish effectively. Time management is not possible without the latest handheld device and mail, VoIP and other technologies today.

For true leadership, the ability to read the future, i.e. the visionary capability, is impossible without a thorough understanding of the market and the culture of the times, which is vastly different from just 10 years ago. I, myself, have to keep going to to lookup words that did not exist a few years ago.

So what emerges is that a great deal of extra effort is required by all professionals nowadays and senior management in particular to keep up with all that is necessary to perform their duties effectively. What steps could be taken to achieve these leadership abilities relevant to our times? Some effective steps that can be undertaken are:

  • Constant learning (or at the least, awareness) of new technology and methodologies

  • Regular association with younger people and observance of their activities

  • Staying current of the "lingo" used nowadays (which is a job in and of itself)

  • Being open to change and constantly adapting to the new changes in technology AND culture.

In my opinion, the professional who performs these steps will be useful irrespective of age. Even an 18 year old who fails to perform these steps will be obsolete. Perhaps the moral of the story is that we must remain in a state of constant learning more than ever before.

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