What Makes a Good technology Leader?

What Makes a Good technology Leader?                                                                                 

By Jeremy Carter, CEO, Rapport Leadership International

As innovation and competition continues to drive the technical expertise requirements of organizations to new heights, businesses in the technology space are faced with an evolving dilemma of how to quickly build teams of highly qualified and skilled individuals.  Unfortunately, promoting technically gifted individuals is the often accepted practice and these individually often lack the leadership and communication skills needed to be successful in a leadership role.

Despite bringing invaluable expertise in their chosen fields, the skills that technically talented individuals possess are sometimes very different to the ones needed to be a good team player or leader. Many technical professionals prefer to stay well within their comfort zone or, as another way of looking at it, their expertise zone.

Daniel Goleman’s research paper1 on leadership success published in the Harvard Business Review found that emotional intelligence (EI) was the dominant predictor of leadership success, in fact, by more than twice the contribution of IQ and technical skills combined.  What’s more, senior managers with a critical mass of EI capabilities had divisions which outperformed their annual earning goals by 20%.

So what are the key components of emotional intelligence that we need to be aware of?

  • Self-awareness – knowledge of personal strengths, weaknesses, values, drives and ability to understand their impact on others
  • Self-regulation – awareness of emotions and ability to maintain an even temper and control disruptive impulses
  • Motivation – driven to continuously achieve and improve; having a positive mental state even in the face of failure.
  • Empathy – understanding people’s emotional states and being considerate of other’s feelings especially when making decisions
  • Social skill – ability to build rapport with and influence people to move them in a desired direction

The best leaders have the EI skills to bring out the best in themselves and, more importantly the people around them especially the team members they are directly responsible for. Having emotionally intelligent leaders tends to create a healthier workplace with greater productivity, improved participation and increased social inclusion. Emotionally intelligent leaders are better able to identify risks to mental health among staff members and respond with early intervention and support.

The challenge for many organisations, especially rapidly growing ones, is that job promotion is often based upon technical skill, IQ, or even the length of time a person has been with the organization and EI is often left out of consideration.  This result in the stories that abound of highly skilled and intelligent employees who failed when promoted into leadership positions. You also probably know the stories of people with good but not great intellectual abilities and technical skills who, when promoted into leadership roles, performed way above expectations.

Although people often tend to judge themselves by how smart and technically competent they are, that’s rarely how others will remember them.  People respond to the way another person makes them feel, especially when things may be going badly. Putting this in a team perspective, for a leader to get the most out of their teams, they need to be self-aware and mindful of how their actions are making team members feel.

Since strong team dynamics are critical in highly technical environments, it raises the challenge for employers to find the best way to incorporate leadership and EI competencies into their teams, developing leadership skills at all levels of the organisation.

Leadership skills and emotional intelligence are not innate talents and must be developed over time, so the solution for business lies not just in training, rather ongoing leadership development.  A leadership program provides focused development of key personnel, which, when adopted as an on-going company initiative, also provides the natural impetus for a cultural shift throughout the whole organisation towards more empowered and effective teams.

To sustain a competitive advantage as a technology company in the market today requires strong leadership at all levels of the organisation and meaningful and on-going leadership development programs hold the key.

Quotes: Having emotionally intelligent leaders tends to create a healthier workplace with greater productivity, improved participation and increased social inclusion

Many technical professionals prefer to stay well within their comfort zone or, as another way of looking at it, their expertise zone


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