Have you read Stephen Covey's coveted '7 Habits of Highly Effective People'? When I dusted it off recently, I realized just how relevant it is to Technology Leaders, CTOs and CIOs today. Here’s a quick refresher on Stephen’s 7 habits:
- 'Be proactive'
- 'Begin with the end in mind'
- 'First things first'
- 'Think win-win'
- 'Seek first to understand, then to be understood'
- 'Sharpen the saw; Growth'
It got me thinking. All of these habits are fundamental to the growth of our careers. But are there further traits the Technology Leadership community could build on top of these strong foundations? I think so. Here’s a list of 7 traits that I see as fundamental to a Technology Leader’s success.
The 7 Traits of Technology Leadership
'Put people first'
Every CIO or Senior Technology leader role I’ve seen has a requirement to lead teams, whether they are large or small. However, this requirement is less about the size of the team you have led in the past but more about how you display that you are people-centric. The notion of 'back office IT' has long gone, especially in today's post-pandemic world. Do you have people at the heart of your strategy? How do you develop both junior and senior people? What is your engagement strategy? These aren’t just questions you pass on to HR, but the intrinsic responsibility of a Technology leader.
2. 'Embrace emerging technology'
I’m not saying you should take on all of the new technology available without due care and attention. Nor am I saying you should take on un-supported technology. There is a difference between 'fashionable technology' and new technology that will be a key driver to the success of the business. Senior Technology Leaders need to keep embracing emerging technology so whatever comes next can be dealt with efficiently, keeping their organisation ahead of the curve.
3. 'Have an eye on the big picture'
Sustainability, legacy, long-term planning - call it what you want, but in today’s world it is very unlikely you will still be in the same role in 20 years. What are people going to say about you when you leave? What are you going to say you achieved? Having a story to tell is going to be important. Everyone needs a short-term plan, especially when joining a role - you want to be able to show some wins in your first few months. But great Technology Leaders don't sacrifice the important for the urgent; they handle the immediate problem while ensuring they secure the future.
4. 'Relationship building is key'
Being able to develop strong internal relationships across the business is a key ingredient for success. In competency-based interviews, there is often a question about how you turned around a difficult stakeholder. In many businesses, it is still the case that the business sees technology as a function that doesn't deliver, mainly because we expect technology to work 100% of the time in our personal lives. Unfortunately, the seamlessness of Apple (and the way we all live our lives) has given people an expectation. That’s why building strong relationships will continue to be a number 1 prerequisite.
5. 'Don't be afraid to say no'
This goes hand in hand with point 4. Building great relationships is founded on trust, which means doing what you said you would do, on time, and ideally on budget. Those that can say 'no' and give logical explanations as to why find that they build trust quickly. And 'no' doesn't have to be a 'never'. It can just be a 'not yet'. This is easy to say and hard to do, especially when a CEO has an idea but it isn't on your roadmap and the CFO has already capped your budget. Again, communication is key to this and being able to be assertive and honest whilst also delivering value is extremely important to your success.
6. 'Calm in chaos'
2020 was chaos. Technology Leaders suffered immense pressure because of the lockdowns and the questions in your next job interview will reflect this. How did you fare during the pandemic? What did you achieve and how? Creating a clear vision and navigating the challenges has been tough for leaders but having a sense of calm and a 'we can do this' attitude has brought many through.
7. 'Focus on delivery'
At the core of highly successful Technology Leaders is the delivery mindset. Getting things over the line has become even more important and being able to show the value that Technology can bring is arguably the most important. After all, you could create the most watertight plan ever devised, but if you can’t deliver, then what’s your value to that company? Remaining focused on delivery is key to success and those deliverables will be crucial to landing your next Technology Leadership role.
There are so many more pieces of the never-ending jigsaw and it was tough to pick just 7. Do you agree with my list? Have I missed any? I’d love to hear from you.
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