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Top five reasons IT leaders fail

Tech executives rarely fail because they aren't technical enough. It's usually the other leadership and management skills that they lack. Here's a list of the top five reasons IT leaders fail from a pair of management consultants.

Tech executives rarely fail because they aren't technical enough. It's usually the other leadership and management skills that they lack. Here's a list of the top five reasons IT leaders fail from a pair of management consultants.

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Management consultants Marty Abbott and Michael Fisher wrote an interesting guest column for GigaOm called The Top 5 Reasons Tech Execs Fail. It is primarily aimed at CTOs for startup and tech vendors, but the principles can apply to other IT leaders as well. Here's the crux of their argument:

"The truth is that your senior technology officer does not need to be the brightest technical mind in the business, except, potentially, during the startup phase of your company. Over time, he or she need only be geeky enough to challenge the strongest technical minds in your company to add value to technical decision-making. Most often, we find that senior executives come to a bad end when they spend too much time relying on their technical brilliance and not enough time cultivating other important aspects of their job."

Here are the five most common reasons they cited for IT leaders to get the pink slip:

  1. Lack of financial acumen
  2. Failure to manage operationally
  3. Failure to lead/motivate/inspire
  4. Failure to execute
  5. Failure to build a world class team

See the original post for an explanation of each item.

About

Jason Hiner is the Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He is an award-winning journalist who writes about the people, products, and ideas that are revolutionizing the ways we live and work in the 21st century.

6 comments
gokulseshan
gokulseshan

while knowing the reasons for failires is important, more important is to know how to overcome these.

Meesha
Meesha

And that's why many IT professionals persevere in their untenable situations with inept senior IT leaders. Practicing that old adage of finding "the silver lining in the cloud" does help but only to a point. Time is not limitless. Also, learning from others failures is often less painful than needing to learn from your own.

jasonhiner
jasonhiner

Or do you think that there are other factors? Original post: http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/hiner/?p=802

michelle
michelle

I've seen this happen to others and been subject to it myself - brought in to get things rolling with the promise of some real managerial opportunity, maybe even a C-level title, but the company is not ready to let you escape the drudgery of the technical dungeon that you end up with as they refuse to hire IT staff, obtain technical support services, buy decent computers, hire someone who's already qualified to perform the job they want you to teach them... they don't want to do any of these things because you can already do them. That prevents the budding IT leader from developing those OTHER skills. They always have their head in a tower case or they're in the attic pulling cable or they're trying to explain the essentials of keeping virus scanners up to date because there's no centralized IT department.

Meesha
Meesha

Although I agree with the bulk of these statements I must take a contrary position with the statement ". . .senior technology officer does not need to be the brightest technical mind in the business. . .". Having dealt in the recent past with just such a "leader", I can tell you first hand this was a disaster. His "technical acumen" was based solely on having worked in only one discipline his whole career and assuming that this was sufficient to lead others with extensive foundational experience that combined theoretical and years of practice. His decisions would undermine excellent hard work simply because he failed to grasp the "technical" key points. Usurping such a wealth of skill and talent with his own baseless knowledge was indeed a tragedy. It lead to the realization of all the points in your list except the last; he had inherited such a team but would not give way to trusting them. As the team began to leave, he replaced them with lesser able members who were only to eager to "stooge" for him. At the end of the day, he was finally fired but not before leaving his mark that will take a while to clean up. So, no through experience I don't agree with the fact that the senior IT person should not be "the brightest technical mind". If he/she can't inspire on the technical level how can the other leadership issues truly fall into place?

ThePoster
ThePoster

I can echo your words. The difference is that the person from my past has not yet been found out or dealt with yet. As far as I am concerned, it is not so much needing to be an expert in everything - I doubt that many such people exist - but the leader should genuinely value each component of the team. With that value, I believe, will follow the ability to trust the abilities and professional judgement of the key team members. Jean-Luc Piccard comes to mind!

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