Lately Inc. Magazine has gone into hyperdrive with article headlines stating the number of best practices you must practice to be a great leader and save time. This is our bread and butter at Dave's Charm School, because we believe it's fundamentally important that every MSP business owner knows what separates a manager from a leader. To give you a taste of our training program, here are three leadership habits every IT solutions provider needs to adopt. In doing so, I guarantee you'll be a better leader than 98 percent of the people in management positions across the globe.

Before I share, I want to stress that while each of these individual leadership behaviors is self-motivating, inspirational to others and drives top results, you must practice all of them simultaneously. Otherwise, the impact is limited. When combined, the three ignite a multiplier effect of rapid growth, higher profits and fully engaged employees who love what they do and do what they love.

I call this triumvirate of behavioral strengths, 3strands LEADERSHIP. So what are the three strands of leadership that will transform your managerial process?

1. Systematic Power

True management of IT talent, or any talent, requires a tested and trusted systematized process. How systematic are you when it comes to your core leadership systems of hiring, managing, developing and retaining top performing people on your team? This Systematic Power is the difference between practicing leadership attributes and harnessing leadership skills. 

Think about your daily activities, communications and follow-ups with others. Do you have set rules and established procedures for each of these? For instance, maybe you always email staff back within an hour of their original email send. Depending on the size of your operation, implementing bimonthly 1:1 meetings is another systematized process of ensuring that you and your employees are on the same page. Do you have hiring criteria that all job applicants are expected to meet? Regularly defining your managerial framework and demonstrating Systematic Power enables you to be a consistent role model who sets and meets expectations, builds trust and inspires greatness with personnel. 

Schedule uninterrupted time this week to confirm your natural strengths as a leader. And whatever continues to work, keep at it! Always invest the majority of your time playing to your strengths. They'll help you win against the competition. Then, ask yourself how you can strengthen your attributes and set aside time to do just that. Perhaps you know when to delegate tasks, but could give directions more effectively. Maybe you're excellent at recruiting promising candidates, but don't do your due diligence and hire them too quickly, without first test-driving. 

Secondly, identify weaknesses in your leadership systems. Let's say you struggle to keep technicians and face high turnover as a result. Alone or with others, determine how to develop better habits and/or improve these systems so everyone is aligned and your MSP practice continues to run like a well-oiled machine. Do not try to turn a weakness into one of your strengths. Resolve to correct the issue or delegate it to someone on your team who's more equipped to handle it. To reduce high technician turnover, for example, you could send out employee satisfaction surveys to detect any warning signs of unhappiness before it's too late. 

2. Meaningful Work

Secondly, you have to create Meaningful Work as a leader. Systems without meaning have no lasting value. High caliber leaders create self-motivating work environments that link career tasks to the personal fullfillment of each individual on their team. This is the most important motivator of all, the unique personal satisfaction each employee gains from achieving results. 

The foundation of Meaningful Work for leaders is how you define and demonstrate your company culture cornerstones: 

  • Mission With A Purpose (mission statement - why you are in business)
  • Vision Motivating a Future (vision statement - where you are going as an organization)
  • Non-Negotiable Values (3-10 statements with behavioral examples - how you do business)
  • Accountability For Consistency (where most companies fail - living out their company culture cornerstones)

Start with yourself when considering employee engagement. Are you excited to start work in the morning, or is it something you just have to do? Is it meaningful to you when you complete a task or project?

Is this statement true about you? I do what I love, and I love what I do.

If not, then you first have to get yourself fully engaged in your work before you can successfully engage your team members.

Once you've done this, then focus on instilling a company-wide passion and pride for what individuals do for the organization. You set the tone. Your actions determine if you retain top IT employees. If not you, then who? (Answer: No one.)


3. Sincere Gratitude 

The third and final strand holds the other two together. It is Sincere Gratitude. This is how you confirm you value each team member's contribution in personalized ways that they appreciate. Tossing them a Starbucks card may just insult them. You need to recognize each individual and reinforce that they are important to your team in a way that best suits their personal preferences. 

People do not remember what you say as much as they remember how you make them feel.

Recognition is rarely about money, although you will often hear about money or low compensation more than anything else. Money is a symptom, not the disease.

Primarily, recognition is about respect and feeling valued. I do not have enough space to fully explain how to accomplish this here, but simply put, everyone likes to be appreciated in slightly if not drastically different ways. Adjust your style of appreciation and gratitude to each team member's preferences.


So what are three things you need to do well to be an effective MSP leader? Focus on Systematic Power, Meaningful Work, and Sincere Gratitude. By starting with these core competencies, you'll be well on your way to building a more productive, engaged company culture and workforce!

It's not just employees who could walk away...