Five Business Skills Every IT Leader Should Possess

Views and opinions expressed are that of the author and may not represent IT Governance.

I discovered this quote during my recent reading of Charles Araujo’s “The Quantum Age of IT.” It struck me in that it encompassed why IT leaders need to embrace change — “deliver on the true promise of IT” — and how they need to embrace change — “engaged…driven…empowered to understand…in the language of their customers.”

The other week, I wrote the blog, Industrial Revolution Meets IT Revolution, based on my initial thoughts surrounding why IT leaders need to embrace change and outlined some interesting lessons from and parallels to the Industrial Revolution. As IT undergoes this current revolution, new skills will be needed — skills that are focused on the business and centered around personal development.

Developing Business Acumen

During our careers, when we change jobs or companies, we focus initial efforts on learning the culture, processes, and products, building relationships with customers, peers, and suppliers. Then we adapt our existing skills and develop new skills to guide our success. IT is going through a career change.

The developments made in the 18th century happened in response to the changing needs of the end users and the pervasive availability of new technology. Similarly, IT leaders today are faced with both challenges and opportunities to embrace and integrate new technology. Yet if our focus is on the technology, then success will elude us. I agree with Charles when he says, “IT as we know it is dead.”

Empathy is a Skill

In a recent CIO article titled Top Leadership Quality Isn’t What You’d ExpectSharon Florentine talked with Jack Cullen, CEO of Modis, about how emotional IQ is a highly coveted trait in C-suite executives today. The article details how soft skills such as empathy are increasingly important for business leaders. “‘Years ago, if you looked at CEOs, company presidents and directors, there was more of a focus on ‘dictatorial style’ leadership. But now, there’s much more pressure for leaders to be outward-facing, to be more sensitive to the communities they sell to, or to the communities of employees that work for them,’ Cullen says.”

As a young naval officer, I was once taught that I needed my men more than my men needed me.  As an engineering scientist and confident leader (I had recentlfrom college, and thought I knew more than I did), this advice ran counter to who I thought I was. But it was the best advice I ever received and is consistent to the message that Jack shares above and Charles explores in “The Quantum Age of IT.” This message applies to IT leaders as we seek to deliver the promise of IT in the language of the business.

Five Skills For Success

In “The Quantum Age of IT,” Charles outlined five skill areas that represent a combination of both business and personal development for IT leaders:

  1. IT financial management skills
  2. Critical thinking and analytical skills
  3. Communication and marketing skills
  4. Innovation and collaboration skills
  5. Leadership skills

This list may feel very generic at first glance, but I found Charles’ stories, case studies, tips and action items to be practical tools with immediate applicability. Although the context of the book is written with IT in mind, these skills apply to many if not most professions.

The sooner you accept that IT is as much a customer service organization as it is a technology provider and implementer, the sooner you’ll be able to see the value in good relationships, strong communication, and a transparent IT organization.

Get Started Today

For a limited time, the Intel IT Center and the IT Transformation Institute are excited to offer a special edition of “The Quantum Age of IT” at a 50% discount from retail price.

I hope you enjoy the book as much as I did. I also hope you’ll share your insights with others and with us by using #TransformIT on Twitter and by watching and participating in the Transform IT Web Series hosted by Charles.