Finding the Next Big Tech Leader Before They Even Know It

The function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.

Ralph Nader

Every person who has a role that allows them to lead was likely one point inspired by someone else who lead them, opened up to them, and allowed them to grow.  Generations influence the next who then in turn influence the next. This means that at one point everyone will likely have to take someone else under their wing and help them along the way.  Whether this is for a few minutes or a lifetime, these acts could help a person reach great potential.  

As every leader comes and goes, things change throughout the tech industry.  Information gets stacked on top more information. Because we know the things we know today, we can learn further tomorrow.  This means that as a leader, you should be ready to prepare the next generation with the knowledge you have.  Unfortunately, without the ability to just download knowledge into a person’s head, it takes a little bit of time.  This is why it is best to know the right person when they come around.  Luckily for us, Some people who have already been through this situation have the answers.  

There are a lot of things that people would think make you a good leader in tech.  These things really don’t have much effect on whether or not you are a good person to be leading a team. I’ve read a few articles on what makes a good tech leader and what doesn’t and they all seem to agree with what Paul Glad and Maria McManus say in their book A Geek Leader’s Handbook.  Two of the examples of things that aren’t guaranteed to turn a person into a great tech leader are a person’s technical abilities and how charismatic they are.

The first one is well documented as not being a very effective skill when it comes to leading technical people.  Mirek Stanek, the tech lead at Azimo, says this in his blog.

Leading a tech team doesn’t mean that you know everything about technologies that you and your team are using. Very often it means that you know enough to move the development forward.

Mirek Stanek

This could mean not being the smartest person in the group but still having the things needed to be a good leader. This doesn’t mean that you don’t need to know anything. Just that you don’t need to know everything. For example, knowing what a turbo encabulator is is good enough for the most part. You don’t also have to know that it can be used in conjunction with a drawn reciprocation dingle-arm to reduce sinusoidal deplenoration.

Charisma may be intriguing to some, but truthfully, while soft skills are important as a leader, they don’t necessarily mean a person is a good leader. In A Geek Leader’s Handbook, They talk about how a person who is very charismatic likely didn’t have to try very hard to get what they wanted and this likely didn’t mature emotionally as well as other’s who maybe failed more often.

Two of the most important things to look for when looking for a future tech leader are people who first, are comfortable with ambiguity, and second, when they see something wrong, they get it fixed.

First, geeks are not typically comfortable with ambiguity so finding one may be difficult, but keep looking! They are out there somewhere! These geeks tend to be a little more lenient when it comes to how exact things are or how well they are told what to do.

Second, a quality that I feel is probably the best one of the bunch, when they see something, they get it fixed. This comes from Dalia Simmons’ blog post on what she feels is the best things to look for in a tech leader. I think this one is great as a person who does the shows that they are able to step up and get things done when something is amiss instead of just letting it slide. If a major problem gets ignored all the way until launch, well, that’s how you get EA.

I think that in the end, no one can check all the boxes. It’s got a lot of luck involved. Only with skill and a little bit of chance can a person truly succeed as a technology leader.