How to Be a Better Leader in Tech
These principles are critical to master for any leader in the tech industry.
Think you need to be a coding superstar or an IT genius to helm any of the growing number of technology companies in the Austin area? Think again, says Tom Sechrest, director of the Master of Science in Leadership and Change program at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas.
While having some tech savvy is helpful for anyone at the top tiers of tech leadership, there are far more important skills to focus on. “At the mid-management level, technical skills are necessary. But at the highest level of an organization, you need to have people skills and conceptual skills for where your organization fits in the larger marketplace,” Sechrest says.
Tech leaders who focus on building their skills in four key areas can help their companies succeed:
No matter what the business, it’s easy to get mired in the minutia, solving the wrong problems or focusing on trivial matters when larger obstacles loom. “Clear thinkers are good at futuristic and conceptual thinking, planning and organization, and creativity,” says Sechrest. “They’re also good at problem-solving and decision-making.”
Most of us think of leadership as a process of guiding others, but the best leaders know how to harness their own strengths and minimize their weaknesses. It’s not as easy as it sounds: Many of us are quite good at understanding others but terrible at knowing ourselves. “Leaders who can lead themselves have self-discipline, flexibility and resilience, and an ability to achieve the goals they’ve set,” Sechrest says.
At the very highest levels, soft skills trump technical skills every time. “Leaders spend a lot of their time working on employee development,” Sechrest says. “When you’re working with others, skills like empathy, diplomacy, tact and conflict management are essential. Emotional intelligence is a must.”
While it’s true that “authenticity” has for some become an overused buzzword, the fact remains that leaders who are true to who they are will do better than those who seek to become a carbon copy of a leader they admire. “Authentic leaders are true to their own personality, their own spirit, their own character,” says Sechrest. “You can’t be someone you’re not. Authenticity is the foundation upon which all other competencies are built.”
No one will succeed perfectly in all four areas, but tech leaders who understand this larger framework will have an easier time staying on the right track. “Being conscious of the models that help you make sense of the world as a leader will help you be a better leader,” he says.
The MSLC program at St. Edward’s University prepares its students to lead positive change within an organization through a comprehensive understanding of leadership from individual, group, organizational, and global perspectives.
Erin Peterson is a freelance writer.