Camden in the News
Making the Shift
Technical competence is insufficient for success as a leader. Moving from tech expert to leader represents a unique challenge that is more complex and has far greater impact than adding more
technical knowledge. Leadership requires transforming technical competence into business success, acquiring and developing skills and competencies distinct from technical expertise alone.
Technical experts who succeed asleaders make shifts in three areas:
1. Building and managing key relationships based on credibility and trust. Anyone starting in their career or taking on new or changed job responsibilities must become proficient at what they do (gain technical expertise). Tech experts shine when they show how much they know—and then build a track record for successful performance. Beyond experts knowing their stuff, they must provide real value to others because they know what they are talking about, make commitments and deliver on them. By creating credibility and trust, they shift into building and managing key relationships.
Technical expertise represents what the job entails. The shift to relationship management represents knowing who the players are for which the what is critical. The art of developing and managing elationships is not based on depth of knowledge but on the ability to deliver something that is of value to other people. When a tax specialist in Finance provides guidance on how to evaluate a new business opportunity to managers so they can make an informed business decision, the individual shines in a new light. Such success is based on the specialist’s skills related to asking important questions, listening, communicating at the level of the audience, making personal connections, and being convincing at logical and emotional levels. These emotionalintelligence skills are distinct from rational intelligence or technical expertise.
2. Working through others. In this matrixed, resource-constrained world, tech experts must learn how to work others. Given the pace of change, spiraling complexity and lack of clarity, this shift is well beyond incremental acquisition of teamwork skills. Working though others represents a new way of doing business
that pushes on aligning roles, responsibilities,and skill sets with the strategy, processes, and structure. Effective execution means everything from getting buy-in for your ideas, from management to managing projects, to clarifying expectations without a clear direction or mandate. We teach managing change as if it were a steady state that one can identify, corral, and define as a course of action. We should teach continuous flexibility to keep an eye on the goal, define resources in the critical path (whether they report to you or not), form the team, align and execute. This is teamwork in the absence of standing teams, and it represents a shift into a vital area of leadership competence.
3. Thinking and acting strategically. Aheads-down management style creates tunnel vision and short-term thinking. Shifting into leadership positions requires the ability to look up and out, beyond the day-to-day activity, with the vision to identify trends and extrapolate from the current reality. This means looking beyond a functional or organization perspective to identify and understand those elements outside the current system. These comprise a set of business imperatives that, once internalized, are the basis for the strategy. As professionals we are consumed with what and how. Strategic thinking requires us to ponder a deeper why question.
The additional value accrued from tech experts is their potential impact as leaders. Their expertise is the base from which they shift into areas with discreetly different skills and competencies. These skills range from building relationships, to working effectively through others to execute across an ever-changing landscape, to seeing the big picture and aligning or realigning the organization when necessary. Without acquiring and demonstrating these skills, the shift from technical expert to leader is restricted at best.