Innovative IT Leadership: From The Top Down Or From The Bottom Up?

Innovative IT Leadership- From The Top Down Or From The Bottom Up

By: Steve Taplin

February 18, 2021

IT Leadership

Choosing a management style for your technology company sets the tone for everything that your employees do and what your company stands for. Whether you choose a bottom-up or top-down management structure, strive to create an entrepreneurial organization of self-managed individuals.

Even in organizations that require tight control for compliance and regulatory purposes, it pays to encourage employees to think outside the box and to stay engaged in their work. How else can you foster innovation, a key component for any technology company?

The Difference Between Top-Down And Bottom-Up Management

The key is finding the right balance between these two unique approaches.

Fans of a top-down structure believe that centralized control prevents chaos in the bottom ranks. If control is too autocratic, it stifles thought leadership and creates a culture of fear and resentment. When well done, the vision for the company cascades down through the department levels in a noninvasive way that allows individual employees to contribute to the achievement of business goals.

Bottom-up management involves developing a flat organizational chart. Titles, corner offices and other trappings of a hierarchy are discouraged. These organizations discourage centralized control and create effective, self-managed teams. However, with no centralized authority, organizations can quickly fall apart at the seams.

To balance these two concepts, effective technology leaders can concentrate on delegating tasks and giving control to the appropriate teams. This frees employees to work toward the goal without the burden of micromanagement.

By delegating the execution of tasks, innovative leaders foster a culture of accountability. However, it takes tremendous energy to make the switch from active management to design-centric leadership. According to the Harvard Business Review, design-centered teams require active, effective leadership to keep projects moving forward smoothly. The trick is learning when to let go and trust your teams to keep producing.

Whether you choose a top-down or bottom-up management style, don’t keep employees in the dark. By developing an attitude of full transparency, you encourage employees to own up to mistakes rather than hiding them. This tenet also fosters trust, so people feel freer to explore new avenues that can lead to innovation and a healthier bottom line.

Design-Centric Leadership

In design-centric leadership, leaders design the organizational structure to align with business goals. Then, they step back and allow team members to drive the day-to-day management. By adopting the tools and techniques needed to drive change, you can leverage technology across the organization and build transparent systems that keep everyone in the loop.

Use innovation and technology to drive strategic change without giving up control of your organization. The design-centric leader doesn’t delegate everything. They hire great people and trust them to do the right thing.

However, accountability requires attentive stewardship and the tools to measure performance at the company, team and individual levels. Continuous alignment includes integrating your vision with company culture, structure and collaboration.

Challenges To Building A Self-Managed Organization2

Create a culture that supports innovation. We are at a crossroads in history. Accelerating trends in innovation and technology pose unique challenges for leaders. So, write your own playbook to navigate the tremendous digital capability at your fingertips.

Challenges to design-centric leadership include knowing how far to get involved without taking over. This can be difficult for action-oriented leaders. In addition, the battle between efficiency and effectiveness can hinder both leaders and employees. An effective environment requires flexibility, trust, and risk-taking. This is best accomplished in small, collaborative teams that can figure things out in an undefined, cross-functional organization. However, efficiency requires centralized control to reproduce processes, procedures, and rules. Efficiency requires structure to enforce and communicate a centralized vision. Effective leaders must navigate these contradictory concepts to get the best results.

Tools And Strategies For Innovative Technology Leadership

Becoming a design-centric leader means becoming comfortable with your own management style. You might be naturally more of a top-down or bottom-up manager. However, as your organization grows you must learn to leads through influence and communication.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

• How can technology trends in mobile, cloud computing, and other areas help you drive growth locally and globally?

• What’s the best way to leverage technology to promote collaboration between remote workers in these uncertain times?

• How can you put your hands on the pulse of your users and customers to inform your design decisions?

In any company, leadership plays a critical role in implementing new technology. In a technology company, leadership often means choosing the right managers to develop technology for clients, then getting out of their way.

It’s important to build personal power and influence in your organization. When people respect and admire their leaders, they can accomplish amazing things.

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