Leadership

19 mistakes technical leaders make most often

IT leaders often get a bad rap for being technical but lacking managerial skills. In fact, here's a list of 19 specific mistakes IT leaders are most prone to.

IT leaders often get a bad rap for being technical but lacking managerial skills. In fact, here's a list of 19 specific mistakes IT leaders are most prone to.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

If you're thinking about getting into IT leadership or are already there, you might want to check out this list (which appeared previously on hacknet.com). These are the 19 mistakes that tech leaders make most often:

  1. Assuming the team serves you
  2. Isolating yourself from the team
  3. Employing hokey motivation techniques
  4. Not providing technical direction and context
  5. Fulfilling your own needs via the team
  6. Focusing on your individual contribution
  7. Trying to be technically omniscient
  8. Failing to delegate effectively
  9. Being ignorant of your own shortcomings
  10. Failing to represent the best interests of your team
  11. Failing to anticipate
  12. Repeat mistakes others have already made
  13. Using the project to pursue your own technical interests
  14. Not maintaining technical involvement
  15. Playing the game rather than focusing on the target
  16. Avoiding conflict
  17. Putting the project before the people
  18. Expecting everyone to think and act like you
  19. Failing to demonstrate compassion

Now this is a pretty exhaustive list, but can you think of any more? Or if you're already a leader, are you or were you guilty of any of these? If so, how'd you turn things around?

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

22 comments
tricia
tricia

Always thinking employees don't know what they are doing, assuming the worst out of employees. Never giving the employees the benefit of the doubt. The "manager" where I work could save herself alot of stress and aggravation if she would stop thinking she is the only one with a brain in our company.

kmdennis
kmdennis

16. Avoiding conflict Could you explain how this is a mistake?

cd003284
cd003284

On my own personal list, this is number 1: Allowing technological decisions to be influenced by political criteria. I say this from a tech background that began in the Army and then passed through fifteen years in the defense industry; but it still and always comes down to exactly the same thing: making an inferior decision - or simply the wrong decision - in order to satisfy some competing personal, organizational, or institutional interest.

kunjkp
kunjkp

I really agree with whatever has been written. The points jolted down are real in Real-IT-y.

anandmalli
anandmalli

These points are very true for most of the organizations in many situations...

nico.verschueren
nico.verschueren

One of the things I find lacking as well in a lot of managers is the fact that they do not know how and when to show their appreciation for the things that have been done. Even when someone has been put under pressure and has gone the extra mile (to deliver another person???s promises) a number of them seem to think it is ???normal??? and don???t even bother to just say ???thank you???.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Which ones out of this list are definitely not made by non 'technical' leaders? Replace technical with fiscal, marketing, sales, human resourcing, panda masturbating. If you are concerned about the lack of good managers in IT, perhaps you should encourage Business to let people manage IT based on their management skills instead of their technical ones....... Just a thought, from a technical person, who knows he's not a manager.... Massively guilty of 12 again......

cbader
cbader

Wow, I used to work for a guy that was 19/19, glad Im not there anymore.

rtillotson
rtillotson

When I facilitated leadership and management training at a medium-sized public corporation several years ago, we confronted the growing problem with "left brainers" being promoted or transferred into "right brainer" positions by presenting "new expectation" orientations to them prior to any promotions. Some decided not to adapt new behaviors; some went for it. The program proved very successful and that business is thriving today.

midomsm
midomsm

oh crap ... i am so guilty

nzimmerman67
nzimmerman67

My God! That sounds just like my supervisor (note, I did not say "manager"!)

BigIve
BigIve

Another good post - thanks Toni. Promoting a technical person to become a team leader can be a classic Peter Principle action. It just does not follow that a person who is good with technology is good with people - and all team leaders need to have good people skills. Unfortunately in many organisations, promoting someone is the only way management can reward good contribution and is the only way an individual can feel that they are moving forward in a recognised manner. Better to allow people to play to their strengths and reward people for how well they do their role. One very brave leader at my company admitted, after a period in the role, that his people skills were not very good and requested another person take up the role. This left him able to focus on his technical and financial skills whilst the other person built brought in very much better soft skills. The team now benefits from both "leaders". The technical leader's standing actually increased as he was able to build his profile and standing within the company.

sshead
sshead

How about failure to take responsibility for your actions? If you are an effective leader you have a handle on the projects, the project status and your staff. If a mistake is made, as the project owner and technical lead, you are responsible, even if it was out of your control. If your staff is worth their salt is was probably a genuine mistake - learn, coach and move on. If your staff is not worth their salt, why are they your staff? We all make mistakes - it's how deal with them that matters. There's a lot more to this thought process, but I don't want to go there, yet! Steve

reisen55
reisen55

Most of your points present the very basic truth: management must treat employees as PEOPLE and consider them as a team and not as techs or project people. I had a very rough manager for two years and we fought very often and loudly. Arrogant and after he was taken down a few pegs in life, we are now good friends as independent consultants and have lunch or breakfast once a month or so. He has learned much. So have I.

MARYANNM
MARYANNM

Great list! #7 (trying to be the expert, not lead experts), #8 (failing to delegate), #17 (managing projects not people), #18 ("my way" syndrome) are the ones I've seen most often in my research on IT professionals and leaders. All of these tend to come together, showing up as micro-managing. I recently wrote an article about this, where one of the key learnings from my interviews was "stick to the what, not the how." Here's an excerpt: "As a leader it's your job to assign a problem or task (what has to be done) by clearly describing the desired outcome and all the parameters or constraints that your employees need to work within (e.g., scope, timing, resources, decision-making authority, internal politics). Your team members need to process the information you provide and explore ideas to determine the best course of action. Let them apply their creativity and expertise." You can read the entire article here http://www.blessingwhite.com/content/articles/enews/Aug2008.asp?pid=2 Mary Ann Masarech, Director of Research & Mktg, BlessingWhite

marcos_madera@hotmail.com
marcos_madera@hotmail.com

well, as i can resume: the leader its a little coward.... You avoid conflict going in the "safe" direction or the "safe" decision. Only to be in a good position at his business boss/owner.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

?100 ?101 ... ?1000 Course they aren't allowed to and they know that's the sort of thanks we'll appreciate. Not a photo with the MD on a thanks wall. Having to do BS like that instead of a proper thankyou would make me uncomfortable as well.

jim
jim

Every one of those weaknesses apply to managers across every field. I manage IT people and I'm still figuring out how to get it right after 14 years. But then, I don't claim to be actually good at it. :)

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

[i]"As a leader it's your job to assign a problem or task (what has to be done) by clearly describing the desired outcome and all the parameters or constraints that your employees need to work within (e.g., scope, timing, resources, decision-making authority, internal politics)..."[/i] The micromanager will read this sentence as full justification for doing exactly as he has done for his entire management career: telling his subordinates how—exactly how—to do everything. Nothing else you have written matters to him except that sentence.

nico.verschueren
nico.verschueren

Ok, when going out of your way to get things done, it is better to get an appreciation on your bank account, but for many managers, even the smallest word is too much. They get all growling and barking up to the point where the work is finished and go into silent mode after that. So even a simple word can go far.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

not in lieu of payment though. Words don't mean anything, it's deeds that count. One of my last communal praise meetings was followed by we are putting you all up for redundancy and I had to reapply for the job I was doing so well at. Most times nothing is better than BS....

Editor's Picks