One of the sessions I attended at NTEN’s NTC last week was about moving from the position as “the techie” in your organization to being a real “leader.” It was an interesting topic and I thought a very valuable issue. Linda Widdop, Dir. of Tech Services/Consulting, and Dean Graham, Manager of App. Services, both from NPower Pennsylvania, were the presenters and general motivators for the session.  Here are notes I jotted down from the session…

The true measure of leadership is influence – nothing more nothing less. – Maxwell

Large org = CIO
Medium org = someone in charge of tech
Small = accidental techie

Ineffective CIO: ED has business background; new position created (CIO), CIO attends executive meetings, no improvements seen by management, staff frustrated by tech

Ineffective IT manager: top management comprised of promoted social workers, advocates; IT manager not invited/included in exec meetings; budget developed and managed by CFO

Ineffective accidental techie: volunteer or overworked case worker who knows how to use a computer; few or minimal resources; react to crisis or programmatic changes

Understanding IT leadership: what was missing in our 3 examples? leadership. To be effective, you need to understand how to be a leader, no matter what role.

The NMA leadership model:
you can apply leadership principles to tech
set direction (tech planning), demonstrate personal character, engender organization capability (build teams), mobilize individual commitment for change (inspire teams)

5 key areas of tech leadership:
1 understand strategic tech planning
2 developing a vision for the org
3 building the team
4 communication
5 role models

1: Understand strategic tech planning
roadmap that aligns tech with mission and business goals
process to build buy in from stakeholders
a framework for decision making
tool for budgeting and fundraising
living evolving document

Where does IT leadership fit in? Broach the subject with management; understand and communicate the benefits; lead the effort; look to the future

2: Developing a vision for the org
What are your organization’s key strategic business goals over the next 3-5 years (increase services by 25%, start an after school program, double earned revenue, improve…)
THEN add tech

Where does IT leadership fit in? Get involved in developing your org’s business goals; fully understand all programs; ask about the big picture; share your ideas with other

3: Building the team
gain support and user adoption
budgets make more sense
input from all angles
smarter solutions
holistic approach

Where does IT leadership fit in? Ask for volunteers to join the effort; elicit input from all members; include other leaders; be open to many ideas; foster team communication; don’t let your expertise drive the process (it’s not all about the hardware side of technology!)

Relationships are the fertile soil from which all advancement, all success, all achievement in real life grows. -Ben Stein

4: Communication
all meetings must be attended by the team
share the team’s deliverables with other staff – execs or full staff
develop solid documentation
share your enthusiasm for the project with everyone

5: Role models
use your headquarters
investigate other ors that provide the same services
investigate other orgs that communicate in the same way
research and adopt tech best practices

It is easy to be a leader to those “under” you but it is very hard to be a leader for your peers.

Role model – be one:
continue to provide thought leadership within the organization
keep up the communications
join and attend nonprofit technology groups
provide info to other orgs
collaborate when possible

So, are you being a techie or a leader in your organization right now?  What are you going to do tomorrow to become more of a leader?  What are you going to work on over the next month to become more of a leader?

Reflections on NTC: From techie to leader
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