Conversations about technology leadership

Conversations about technology leadership
Photo by Sergey Semin on Unsplash

Last week I had the opportunity to have a chat with Heidi Helfand, Software engineering leader and author of Dynamic Reteaming as part of Heidi's research for her new book around tech leadership. Thinking before our chat was an interesting opportunity to reflect on my own leadership journey and what skills, elements and attributes i think are important for effective technology leadership. Spoiler alert, a lot of the things i think make people an effective leader in tech are the same or similar to what makes any leader effective, regardless of context. Here is the list that i quickly jotted down before the call:

  • Influence the ability to influence your team, peers, board, stakeholders is important, but cannot exist in and of itself, influence is built on multiple foundations
  • Communication the ability to dewfine, control and communicate a compelling narrative around where you've been, where you are going and why
  • Strategy being able to cut through the noise and multidued of demands and options and provide strategic clarity and direction
  • Relationships not only the ability to build and sustain effective relationships, but also the savvy to identify which ones to focus on
  • Coaching The more a person progresses in leadership the further away they will get from being able to rely on personal mastery and direction, you will need to be effective in leading people who know much more about a situation, problem, technology than you do, coaching is how you remain effective when your leadership remit expands beyond your immediate knowledge and experience
  • Empathy empathy is a foundation of good communication, relationships and influence
  • Values I believe the higher you go the more frequently your values are going to get tested. Being really clear on who you are and what you represent and therefore what your red lines are from a values perspective is really important and feeds into other elements in this list
  • Self awareness reflection, perspective and being aware of your own limitations is important to understand the limits of what you can do and also how your way of being comes across to your colleagues
  • Team builder Building an effective team is fundamental to your success as a leader. An important part of this is building a team that creates the space for you to be successful, i've seen too many leaders not address this concept of space and end up getting dragged into areas where their team should operate with autonomy
  • Network builder inside your org, outside your org, inside your area of focus, outside your area of focus, inside your industry, outside your industry. Your network is an external representation of who you are as a professional. for me its important that this network is not just about peers, but also provides opportunity for coaching and mentorship
  • Decision ready an effective tech leader has to be decision ready. what i mean by this is there will never be a perfect time, with the perfect information to make a decision, especially in tech, there is always multiple options. the key thing is to avoid paralysis, is to be able to make the best decision based on the information available
  • Resilience I tend to think this is less of a skills and something that is acquired. However there are things you can do to help accelerate your resilience and these things are in this list. Building your network improves your resilience, building your team improves your resilience, being clear on your values and holding true to them builds your resilience, coaching and mentoring builds your resilience, delivering builds resilience.
  • Personal brand I hate this term and the wankyness associated with it, but i can't think of a better one. This links to communication, relationships and self awareness. whether you like it or not your personal brand exists and it can either exist as a tool to help you or something that will undermine you and what you are trying to achieve
  • Confidence through delivery Being a leader is hard, being a leader in tech is hard. What helps is identifying things that replenish your batteries, delivering and being seen to be delivering helps build confidence and aids your personal brand, your communication and your ability to influence

What skills and attributes do you think are essential to be an effective technology leader?