April 2015: Leadership Skills For IT Professionals

I read an article in Harvard Business Review recently that really caught my attention. It discussed a recent CareerBuilder survey that found that only 34% of people want to become a manager. It was appropriately titled Most People Don’t Want to Be Managers.


While I was initially shocked at the low stat – I took a step back and understood that for many, they obviously prefer to be an individual contributor or subject matter expert. I come from the information technology industry and have seen many people over the years that would prefer to stay hands on and directly involved in the coding, architecture, or implementation. They don’t necessarily want a promotion and worry about being away from the action too long and missing the rapidly evolving technologies, platforms and hot trends. In many ways, they are right – the skills, priorities and tasks you spend time on are VERY different for a leader than a team member.


IT field isn’t the only place. Most fields in fact that are highly technical at the entry level offer professionals a wonderful and challenging career path that doesn’t involve leadership, unless chosen. Once a supervisory path is chosen though, the higher you go the less it is about technology skills and the more it is about people and leadership expertise instead. This includes a wide variety of industries from nursing to mechanical engineering. Being an excellent trial lawyer is very different than running a law firm.


I do believe that leadership is leadership and the fundamentals and principles are the same. But this month, I wanted to share a few articles I have run across over the past year that I enjoyed and are directed specifically at IT professionals.


When Leadership Skills Trump Technical Skills via Government Executive

What is it, given the leadership role that you’re in, that only you can do? What follows is, in no particular order, a typical list of answers and some thoughts about what the list tells us:

  • Set the vision
  • Develop my people
  • Get the right people on the team
  • Allocate resources
  • Establish priorities
  • Build the relationships we need to get stuff done
  • Provide air cover
  • Share perspective and information with the team
  • Keep key people informed about what we’re doing
  • Knock down barriers
  • Keep us focused on the plan
  • Monitor and measure progress


When you look at that typical list, what do you notice? Here’s what I notice. There’s not a pure technical skill on the list. It’s all leadership.


3 Underappreciated IT Leadership Skills via Information Week

What sort of IT leaders do we need for the 21st century? Here’s what CIOs of leading companies in Silicon Valley say. Business today must navigate a world that is more VUCA — volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous — than ever before…

  1. Problem finding, problem solving
  2. Be a true peer and sparring partner to the business.
  3. Move others to action.


16 Traits of Great IT Leaders via CIO

Managing People in IT is Different: What it means to be an IT leader today is different from what is was 10 years ago. The command-and-control way of thinking has given way to an era of employee empowerment and engagement…Whether you’re the CIO, an IT manager or a developer, incorporating the traits listed here will help you grow personally, professionally and ensure your continued success in IT.

  1. They Always Deliver Results
  2. They Are Self-Aware
  3. They Continue to Learn and Grow
  4. They Work Through Other People and Delegate
  5. They Have Great Communication Skills
  6. They Are Authentic
  7. They Are Decisive
  8. They Create a Safe-to-Fail Environment
  9. They Are Adept at Problem Solving
  10. They Create a Collaborative Environment
  11. A Sense of Humor
  12. They Have Integrity
  13. They Are Empathetic
  14. They Know Their Customers
  15. They Think Strategically
  16. They Know Their Leadership Style


Navigating Complexity via Project Management Institute

75 percent of organizations rank project manager leadership skills as most important for the successful navigation of complexity in projects. Technical skills come in a distant second at 9%.


- Tom Deierlein


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