Are You an I, T, or X-Shaped Leader?

By Kateryna Boiko

Updated Over a Week Ago

Minute Read

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Skill shapes are used by recruitment specialists to categorize a person’s skill levels and ability to work within a team. Different shapes are allocated depending on their experience and skills, the most common being T, I, and X.

An Offshore Development Centre (ODC) is a common way to get software and design work done. You will want to make sure that your ODC team is able to work effectively with each other. This is where the idea of skill shapes comes in.

What Do the Different Skill Shapes Mean?

An effective team must have a mix of skill shapes; therefore, you will need to understand what those shapes are. The following are some explanations for the most common skill shapes that you are likely to encounter:

T Shaped

For the T, the vertical stroke is their expertise in their field, such as programming knowledge. The horizontal stroke is for their cross-functional knowledge and ability to communicate within the other disciplines within your dedicated development team.

This is a desirable shape for your offshore project manager and key members as they should be experts within their own field while also having a good understanding of the other tasks within your team. These are highly versatile people with an understanding of many different roles. A good example would be someone like Steve Jobs.

I Shaped

An I-shaped person lacks the breadth of experience that a T-shaped person has and does not have the ability to communicate well across the team, Hence the lack of the horizontal bar that the T has.

Newly qualified staff would be categorized as an I as well as those that are specialized in a specific area. A famous I would be Warren Buffett, who has a high level of skill in investing.

X Shaped

This is the “executive” skill shape and highlights the ability of the individual to set strategy, lead people, and motivate the team. Elon Musk would be considered an X shape.

The most sought-after shapes within your teams for offshore development are going to be those with a T shape. The reason is that they will be the ones best able to work within the teams.

Leadership Skill Shape

How to Become an X Shape

As an I, you will have a good understanding of your specific field, such as graphic design or programming in a specific language. But you will need to be able to work on being X-shaped if you want to be a leader.

What is missing for an I is the breadth of experience that someone with an X-shaped skillset has. So you should develop yourself by:

  • Working on soft skills: Look at areas such as communication and take opportunities to make presentations to your co-workers to help develop these skills.
  • Collaborate with those in another discipline so that you get a better understanding of what their work involves.
  • Go to conferences and attend training: Develop your skills in as many different ways as you can think of to improve your abilities and knowledge.
  • Identify gaps: Look at where you have experience and start to clearly identify where you need to gain additional expertise.
  • Work on projects that are different from what you normally do. Gain as much experience as you can.
  • Make an impact: Use anything you learn to make a difference in the teams you work in so that your abilities get noticed.

Hiring ODC Team Project Managers

Whether you are looking for project managers or team members for your offshore development services, understanding their skill shape will help you understand just how well they will fit. Those that have a good T shape will be able to work best within your team to give the best possible results.

Collaborative teams are vital in today’s age, especially with many companies looking to outsource their development work. Ensuring that you fully understand the abilities of the team members and leaders ensures confidence in what they will be able to deliver.

Develop Your X Shape

If you want to be a leader of any team, then you need to work on developing your skills so that you are X-shaped. This is not an overnight process and one that you will have to invest a huge amount of effort and time into. But the end results will be more than worth it for your career.

Which Skill Shape Are You?

If you have ideas you feel like sharing that might be helpful to readers, share them in the comments section below. Thanks!

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Kateryna Boiko
Kateryna Boiko
Kateryna Boiko is a Marketing Manager at Mobilunity, Provider of Dedicated Development Teams with 9 years of hands-on experience in digital marketing. Kateryna managed to work with diverse industries and markets and now is keen on sharing unique cases with the world and coaching future leaders.
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