I admit, as a technology manager, I may be a bit biased here. However, at the risk of sounding egotistical, I believe technology managers possess especially strong leadership potential. In fact, there is a growing trend of Chief Information Officers (CIOs) becoming Chief Operating Officers (COOs), Presidents and CEOs. In your own organization, have you noticed how often IT leads the organization in new policies and best practices? I think this is because our colleagues in these departments are among the best educated and experienced in leadership principles, such as the following:
“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” - Steve Jobs
Leadership demands an ability to look to the future and understand broad trends in a given industry in order to develop tomorrow’s solutions. Individuals working in technology are always dealing with what’s coming next. Most technology projects are depreciated over 3 years – 5 at most. The useful life is often less. As a result, technology managers are among the best when it comes to innovation.
“The man who knows it can’t be done counts the risk, not the reward.” – Elbert Hubbard
There is a delicate balance of risk and reward in cultural leadership. Organizations need leaders that understand this balance and the degree of risk that is acceptable for their business models. When balancing the costs, development time, dependencies and other risks, technology managers become proficient at risk mitigation.
“You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can’t get them across, your ideas won’t get you anywhere.” – Lee Iacocca
Leaders who can not communicate effectively rarely remain leaders very long. Communication is also constantly required to be effective in technology management. The pace of change in information technology combined with the ever increasing dependency upon technology to do our daily jobs, results in effective communication as a basic skill of IT managers.
“If A equals success, then the formula is A equals X plus Y and Z, with X being work, Y play, and Z keeping your mouth shut.” – Albert Einstein
While effective communication includes listening, this is a skill so especially in demand for leaders that it deserves it’s own section. Similarly, effective technology managers are required to constantly listen to their customers. Business needs and organization requirements are constantly changing, evolving. As a result, the technology needs of stakeholders are always in flux. Technology managers that effectively build relationships with their customers must be great listeners.
“Whosoever desires constant success must change his conduct with the times.” — Niccolo Machiavelli
If your organization is not changing with the times, it will lose to the competition. Therefore, leaders must be effective at managing change. The combination of constant innovation in their field, balanced with the communication necessary to support it, make technology managers particularly effective change managers as well.
Cross Functional Support
”Leaders must be close enough to relate to others, but far enough ahead to motivate them.” – John Maxwell
To be an effective leader for an organization, you must be empathetic to a diverse array of needs. I’ve always said, their are two leadership roles in an organization that must be especially adept at comprehending the broad needs of stakeholders: Chief Financial Officers and Chief Information Officers. CFOs must understand the needs of each department to effectively leverage financial assets. CIOs must understand the business needs of each department to effectively prioritize and deliver information solutions.
So while I may be a bit biased, I’m not surprised to see a growing number of technology managers being recognized for broader leadership roles in their organizations. After all, who better to lead your organization than one who grasps innovation, balances risks, communicates effectively, listens intently, manages change and provides support to all stakeholders?
Question: Do you see benefits in the growing trend of technology managers promoted to broad leadership roles?