Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Tim Cook, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs. Think of any contemporary multi-billionaire entrepreneur and they’ll be intrinsically linked to the world of technology. That should come as no surprise, considering the very foundation of this post-modern 21st century is tech-based, in some form or the other. Business leaders are born and cultivated in the society they live and thrive in. In this age of the technocrat, then, a certain brand of technology leadership is soon becoming the norm.
However, the experts who hail from the world of computation, number-crunching and code don’t all successfully transition into leadership roles. Or should we say having a deft hand at tech doesn’t guarantee you a place in the C-suite. Afterall, being a competent, efficient, and successful leader requires building connections with people. In fact, when it comes to tech-driven or tech-based companies, it means finding that balance between processes, research, and development alongside the most unpredictable and indispensable aspect — the human element — the people who make up the organization.
What is Technology Leadership?
The digital landscape that is the world today means that no business interested in succeeding can avoid technology as a part of its anatomy. Conventionally, businesses would hire Information Technology (IT) or tech heads to oversee the tech-related aspects of their functions. Today, it may not be as easy to dissociate the overarching responsibility of running the ship from the absolute need to be tech-savvy as the designated captain of the ship. Interestingly, 26% of CXOs who were surveyed by McKinsey said there was no clear-cut owner for technological activities within their organizations
A technology leader, therefore, is someone who not only oversees the smooth and successful delivery of the product or service provided by the company but also the creation and seamless functioning of a technology-driven workflow.
From an external perspective, the technology leadership needs to be:
- Tuned into the market trends
- Aware of developments in technology
- Cognizant of the competition and their technical advances
- Queued into the rapid evolution that is a constant in the world of tech
- Strive to constantly improve products and services basis the above
Internally, they need to be the ones bridging the gap between technology and its deployment. Importantly, technology leadership skills also involve knowing the inextricable links between technology and the functioning of the company or its processes.
Walk the Talk: Technology Leadership Skills at Work
Staying in tune with the latest market trends vis-à-vis technological developments is a necessary part of the technology leader’s responsibility areas. Beyond that is knowing which latest tech innovation can be adapted and integrated into their own company’s tech ecosystem. Being able to discern the trends best suited for company growth is key.
Any kind of leadership is defined by the level of honesty and transparency maintained in communicating with the team members. Technology leadership simply adds accuracy and precision of data flows to that. Honest and open communication, whether it is people to people or process and data to people, is the best way to build trust in your leadership.
The steps involved in this process are as follows:
- New technologies introduced into already established work processes, to create work efficiencies, need to be understood by all members of an organization.
- Processes that are meant to enable team members’ productivity need to be explained as clearly as possible to ensure better understanding and easier acceptance.
- Just telling your team to get onboard with the tech and then taking them through the steps to its working is not enough.
The good old cliché of being a good listener is still valuable as far as technology leadership skills go. As a technology leader, listen to what your team has to say. The obstacles they face in the course of doing their work, developing a product, or solving a particular challenge are important. Patient listening to any challenges will ensure the solution is better directed and solved more speedily. Open discussions and listening to your team members’ perspectives on how they’d solve a particular challenge will ensure a more holistic and comprehensive solution.
Courses for Technology Leaders
So, you know the importance of using technology to nose ahead of the competition. Deploying it the right way to keep your employees motivated is a whole other ball game. Which is why a set of courses by leading universities is such a handy tool for potential technology leaders.
- Berkeley’s Technology Leadership is one such program that focuses on the four pillars of leading with technology, namely developing tech leadership acumen, enabling digital transformation, using data as an asset, and transforming business with AI. More technology leadership programs from Emeritus are coming up. Watch this space for latest updates.
- Wharton’s Leading a Technology-Driven Organization: This program delves into the challenges faced by technology leaders and comprehensive ways to overcome them. It is designed to help aspiring and existing leaders cultivate strategic thinking to harness new technologies for growth.
Technology Leadership and Its Impact
In a world that is hinged on technology in some form or the other, whether in the service or the product offered, businesses that are quick to adapt are the ones that will succeed. A technology leader can therefore ensure that the business stays on top of trends and accrues the benefit of being the first out the door to do so.
Within the organization itself, it can create seamless workflows, thereby increasing the efficiency of working. Leveraging technology in the organization also allows leaders to know in real-time any issues or obstacles that may crop up and initiate problem-solving measures immediately.
Innovation and the desire to work with new technologies among the team members could also further serve to create a highly motivated workforce.
Work From Anywhere Model: An Example of Technology Leadership?
A very noticeable and far-reaching impact was brought to the forefront during the pandemic. This is when technology fostered a new way of remote working. By allowing employees to work from the safety of their homes. In fact, it has established highly effective means of communication. Technology leaders who have embraced this new age way of working have benefited from a diversified pool of employees working from different parts of the world.
Styles of Technology Leadership
Capable and successful leaders are those who can communicate well with their teams, and keep them motivated and engaged. For technology leaders, it means more of the same with the added responsibility of bridging the gap between processes and people. This is to create a comfortable and efficient work environment. The style of technology leadership, however, depends on how tech-intensive the organization is. You can usually understand this better with the help of a perceptual map that has degree of control as one axis and ability to resource as the other. Then, the styles break up into the following four:
- Owner: Drives tech development and growth of new technologies
- Enabler: Smoothens the process of technology development by creating and maintaining requisite processes
- Influencer: Acts as a support or sounding board for others who want to bring in technology leadership
- Challenger: Uses executive authority to veto old technologies and processes so that new ones can prosper
Source: The Strategy Institute
Technology simplifies life in radical ways. Moreover, it allowed businesses to function smoothly through life-changing Covid, leading to paradigm shifts in the way people worked. That it has now become intrinsic to the success of a company is undeniable. Adapting it in organizations is not an option anymore. It is rather a question of ‘when’ and not ‘if’. Explore the best leadership courses online on Emeritus.
By Gauri Kelkar
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