How Important is Versatility in Leadership?

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Career movement (whether vertical or horizontal) can be quite demanding as every company has its unique hurdles. As a Manager, you might say, “management is management” whether it is a fast growth tech company or a financial services company but after some time, you may feel out of place if your old management rules, skills and methods do not apply in this new environment. This can be frustrating.

In leadership, versatility is key in adapting to the new technologies – software and tools, people and practices, registers and languages which you might find and be obliged to work with. It appears that there is a world of difference between tech and non-tech companies in terms of the managerial skills required to run them. However, it queries the mind to understand the nature of this difference (if any) and to what degree. This would help in determining the specific managerial competences needed to thrive in a tech company as a manager.

VitalSmarts, a leadership training and development company, decided to conduct a thorough research on this subject matter and share the outcome. They moved from the general to the specific by initially surveying leaders and employees from both tech and non-tech companies. At a point, there was a streamlining from companies who are technology-users to few technology-development companies like Facebook, Google and Uber for instance. This exercise was carried out strictly within the Tech Sector.

One of the peculiar challenges of the Tech companies is the issue of staff loyalty due to a high competition to stay on top of the charts. There are more frequent movements in tech companies than in other non-tech institutions who engage employees on long-term basis. But in the tech sector, everyone keeps migrating to the latest tech company with a superstar status.

Another peculiarity is that of pressure and tight schedules. Tech engineers often run their jobs round the clock with no down time or off periods. Overtime, a ‘hero’ culture is adopted for the person who has the least personal and work life interruptions on the job. Little significance is placed on long-term engagement.

They also experience shifting priority issues since their work is dynamic and highly dependent on the most recent technical challenge or project. There is high focus on top talents, innovations and project targets rather than institution building.

Finally, because there is a high job switching culture in the sector, the employees value nurturing their connections rather than confronting themselves on their personal weaknesses. They ignore individual flaws, avoid profound disagreements and address accountability issues because the sector is so closely knit. They would not risk a future opportunity on any account since they keep meeting themselves in several new companies; having either previously worked together as subordinates or as superiors.

Now, working in such terrains as a manager would prove tasking. You would require special skills to thrive in such an environment. Though obvious, these issues are left untreated in the Tech world as they have become a part of their undeniable reality. The best that a Tech manager can do is to bring these issues to the fore and making it a discourse amongst the employees.

The researchers resolved that a manager would best perform his duties by creating a free atmosphere where the Tech employees dialogue, free up tension by discussing their concerns no matter the level of sensitivity as long as it is relevant and solutions would be proffered. This would ultimately create a culture that allows for individual accountability (at all levels, by all employees), effective job execution, better innovations and a robust institution.

It is unlikely that the peculiar Tech challenges discovered from this research would disappear in the nearest future. Therefore, as a Tech manager, the ability to master the dynamics and yet build a strong culture of open and peaceful Dialogue as well as high Accountability are key skills required for sustaining an institution in the long-term.

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