The key to transforming federal IT? It’s leadership, not technology.

October 10, 2019

By Monica Thakrar

As a coach in the Partnership’s IT Leaders program, I mentor federal IT professionals who want to improve their agency’s IT systems or spearhead the next big IT innovation in government. Even though I am not a technical IT expert, I can help them achieve those goals by strengthening their leadership skills.

Of course, it’s important to have technical expertise if you work in IT. IT upgrades need to be based on an understanding of the limits and capabilities of technology. But by the time I start working with the professionals in the program, most of whom are GS-12 to GS-14 federal employees, they already have the technical skills to make sweeping IT changes.

What they are looking to gain is leadership expertise.

Understanding technology isn’t enough to propel successful innovations if the people in charge don’t understand how to work with and influence people to help implement change.

I understand the particular challenges IT professionals face every day, including budget constraints, lack of resources and ever-changing IT needs.

In the IT Leaders program, however, we focus on the soft skills of leadership: becoming self-aware, building relationships, motivating employees, thinking strategically and more.

At their jobs, IT professionals focus mainly on technology. Many of them haven’t had the luxury of spending time developing these capabilities. Yet the more we learn about how things get done in government, the more we realize how important it is for leaders to have these abilities.

I have seen IT professionals practice these skills in the program and then use them at their agencies to lead important projects and successfully guide their teams.

Only by using those competencies together will they be able to help their agencies enhance their IT capabilities, implement IT solutions and get the results that they desire.

Monica Thakrar is a coach with the IT Leaders program.