IT By Design’s Kam Kaila: Here Are Six Key Traits Of Good Leadership

‘I’m really passionate about leadership,’ says IT By Design President Kam Kaila. ‘I know with talent we don’t have enough people, but we don’t have enough leaders.’


Kam Kaila believes the channel is lacking effective leadership.

“I’m really passionate about leadership,” she said. “I know with talent we don’t have enough people, but we don’t have enough leaders.”

Kaila, president of Marlboro, N.J.-based master MSP IT By Design, spoke to a room of more than 400 MSPs at the company’s Build IT Live conference in Orlando, Fla. this week about effective leadership and how to obtain it.

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“That’s where I take the leadership models that we’ve built, we go into organizations and teach all of their leaders at the exact same time,” she said. “It’s not enough for an organization to train one person and expect that one person to go back and train others [because] that person may or may not be a good teacher.”

Having the entire group learn together adds value because the leaders can easily gauge how all of the are doing.

“It allows you to assess, and they’ll make their own decisions,” she said. “They’ll know which leaders are up to snuff and which ones aren’t.”

The training is also an ongoing model.

“You’ll have notes in your mailbox, you’ll have homework,” she said. “It’s making [leadership] a habit, something you’re constantly working on. We built a program that’s all about leadership and nothing else. All we want to do is help you be better leaders.”

There will also be separate trainings for effective managers with a separate curriculum and training model.

Helder Machado, CEO of Worcester, Mass.-based MSP Machado Consulting, and a retired colonial in the U.S. Army, said leadership training was one thing he thought the channel always lacked.

“I feel like CEOs need more leadership training, because how can you train your junior people if you’re not trained?” he told CRN. “It’s about feeding your mind. It’s about never being satisfied with where you’re at and always trying to have constant improvement. It’s not about being the best, it’s about being better than we were yesterday. That was something that I took from the military.”

Kaila identified six key traits a leader should have. Check them out below.

1. Vision and Inspiration

Vision and inspiration is all about communication and how leaders share their “compelling vision” with their organization.

Kaila said the biggest key is selecting the right leaders for an organization.

“Leadership is the one thing you must work at diligently and continuously,” she said. “Because we don’t know how to lead well.”

A clear vision of leadership also has trust indicators, she said, much like when businesses have performance indicators.

The biggest key, she said, is how to select leaders as it’s not always the most tenured employee at a company.

2. Ethical Behavior

Kaila said MSPs should be aware and understanding of behavior as a leader.

“Unethical behavior is actually acting in your own self interest,” she said. “Sometimes not saying something is as bad as lying.”

Leaders must demonstrate high ethical standards and do what they say they’re going to do to and hold others accountable for what they say they’re going to do, Kaila continued.

“You need to know what is wrong as much is what is right,” she said.

And sometimes leaders don’t deliver and can become “a little tyrannical.”

“They don’t want your independent thought,” she said. “They want you to follow what they say.”

And with that comes authenticity.

3. Authenticity

Authenticity will impact an organization’s team the most.

“Being true to what you say and to what you do is very important,” Kaila said, adding that it’s just as important to be open about strengths and weaknesses within a leadership style.

It’s common for individuals to doubt themselves, she said. To help mitigate that, Kaila said leaders must see an individual, or team, where they stand and help them grow.

It’s also key for leaders to authentically engage with their teams, not just fight fires and make sure the team is hitting their goals. Being authentically engaged with a team will create an authentically-engaged team in return.

4. Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is leading a company with empathy and creating a positive and inclusive environment, especially when having difficult conversations.

“It’s what have we done and how do we make people feel?” Kaila said.

This can come in many ways, such having some grace as recognizing when someone on the team needs a moment, or extra help, in whatever they’re working on.

5. Accountability

Accountability means holding oneself to the same standards they do as their team. That can be done by having a clearly-defined score card, or metric, that everyone in the organization can abide by.

“We cannot expect from our leaders what we ourselves do not do,” she said. “Any feedback is growth, and we have very clear expectations. We know that it’s ok to make mistakes and we own them.”

As a leader, she said is always about winning or learning.

6. Feedback and Growth

Kaila said the worst is when leaders don’t, or don’t want to, hear their own feedback.

“We acknowledge our mistakes,” she said. “We own them. We take feedback and we grow. We support one another in everything that we do.”

This is where she said skip levels are crucial. Skip levels are when the leader checks in with a team member to see how their direct report is doing as a leader.

If multiple people in one department start leaving, she said it’s time to start looking at that particular leadership.

“People don’t leave companies, they leave bad leaders,” she said.