Just because a worker is the most productive member of their team, is the smartest and the fastest, or generates the highest-quality work and the most satisfied clients — does not mean that worker will be an excellent leader. Workers tend to utilize vastly different skills than the managers and executives who oversee them. This phenomenon is especially obvious in tech, where hard skills are of significant importance and soft skills often fall to the wayside.
Good leaders must exhibit a variety of interpersonal skills to keep their teams happy and performing to their best ability. Whether organizations promote tech leaders from their workforce or hire an outside candidate, the most valuable skills for tech leadership include:
In truth, communication should top the list of required skills for every professional position. Communication is easily among the most valuable skills a tech professional can have — but identifying good communication skills can be difficult. In tech leadership, one of the best indications of a well-honed communication skill is the ability to explain project requirements to tech workers and non-tech business leaders alike. Because tech leaders operate in different spheres, the ability to code switch is essential for delivering specific and valuable information across groups.
Many leaders are more than willing to accept praise for their team’s successes but shift blame onto workers for failures. However, a tech leader should feel responsible for the performance of their team, even if that means being accountable for mistakes and missed deadlines. Tech leaders should closely monitor their team and intervene when it is clear that an employee is not meeting performance expectations. If expectations are untenable, it is the leader’s responsibility to communicate this to executives and save their workforce from undue stress.
Technology is consistently and rapidly changing. What might be a cutting-edge trend in technology one day could become obsolete the next. Thus, tech leaders need to be fueled with curiosity to understand and engage with the latest tech information, insights and trends, which could aid their teams in completing projects essential for business success.
In addition, tech leaders should constantly seek to understand the reasons behind the projects assigned to their teams. Applying their curiosity to business operations can help them devise strategies for projects that allow for more precise achievement of organizational goals.
Tech leaders are tasked with facilitating the completion of projects and the achievement of goals, but neither of these are possible if they cannot win the trust of their workers or the respect of their fellow business leaders. Trust and respect go hand-in-hand, and they develop in response to a leader’s actions. Several behaviors help a leader cultivate trust and respect, such as listening actively and showing appreciation. Leaders can enroll in leadership courses to learn more about how various interpersonal skills affect their trustworthiness and effectiveness in the workplace.
The vast and changing nature of technology necessitates flexibility within tech leadership. Flexibility benefits tech leaders in a variety of ways. For one, while technical workers might have strict skills that they apply to specific types of technical projects, tech leaders need to be able to oversee diverse types of projects. For another, tech leaders need to be capable of functioning in different work environments — physical and digital — and with different team cultures and compositions. ABeing able to adapting to new situations and expectations is essential for tech leader success.
Another effect of the constantly shifting nature of technology, tech leaders need to be able to envision the future of technology. Utilizing data about the business environment, industry trends, the economy and consumer behavior, tech leaders should be able to anticipate their organization’s tech needs and cultivate a vision of those needs that other business leaders can draw upon in drafting business strategy.
Tech leaders do not need to be best friends with their workers, but there are benefits to being liked. Often, likeability is correlated with a leader’s ability to demonstrate empathy and honesty, which are important for inspiring and maintaining trust with the workforce. Employees with likable leaders also tend to have lower stress levels and higher productivity. Likeability can be subjective, so tech leaders might need time to understand company culture and group work ethic before they are expected to develop an amicable relationship with their team.
All employees benefit from strong soft skills, tech employees included. However, tech leaders need a particular set of personal and interpersonal attributes to ensure they and their tech teams can thrive.