Today’s employers, especially in tech, are looking for specific employability and personal skills, and one particularly important skill they’re scanning for is leadership. Why the tech industry specifically? As the authors explain in this Harvard Business Review (HBR) article, the tech industry’s combination of high-velocity competition, global talent, complexity, and interdependence among rivals makes it a truly unique environment, requiring employees to have a distinct set of leadership skills.
Even if you are not considering a leadership position, developing leadership skills is critical because it can give you a competitive edge when applying for a job or promotion. It also makes you more resilient, adapt to stressful situations and bounce back from difficult experiences. Most importantly, it can act as a multiplier on the effectiveness of your ‘hard’ technical skills.
Let’s take a closer look at key leadership skills needed for a career in tech and how you can start developing them to grow in your career.
What is leadership?
Leadership is defined as a process of social influence which maximises the efforts of others towards the achievement of a goal. A big part of being a good leader is personal leadership which, according to business psychologist Grace Asemota-Orisakiya, is ‘the ability to take responsibility for all aspects of your life and lead it in the direction that is best for you.’
This shows that anyone can be a leader. You don’t need to be the most senior, have a fancy title, a particular personality or be working in a management role. If you possess the skills needed to engage, interact with and influence the people around you effectively and positively, you have what it takes to be a leader.
The most important leadership skills for digital roles
To succeed in a tech career, you need to possess a range of interpersonal skills, including strong communication, agility, self-awareness, influence, decision-making, conflict management, relationship building and critical thinking.
When considering the leadership skills that employers value most, HBR argues that communication and agility are what will set you apart. The Centre for Creative Leadership suggests that self-awareness and the ability to exert influence are also key. Let’s take a closer look at these four skills, why they’re so highly valued and how you can work on developing them.
Tech professionals need strong communication skills to explain complex concepts and build relationships with their colleagues and clients. Presentations and meetings aside, a lot of technical communication – from documentation to code review comments, group discussion threads, and combining requirements for a specific project – relies on good written communication to ensure the job gets done.
Quick tips to improve your communication skills
- Keep it simple and be specific. Avoid speaking in jargon or using acronyms in written communication.
- Practise active listening, a communication skill that goes beyond simply hearing the words to understanding their meaning and intent. Show interest, make good eye contact, notice non-verbal cues, ask open-ended questions, and reflect on what has been said before you respond.
- Set goals to build your communication confidence, such as networking, delivering a presentation or raising a point in a meeting.
We all need to learn to adapt and thrive in situations that are uncertain, and when you don’t know what to do, being agile is the key. Tech employees, in particular, often face high pressure and ambiguity as they navigate overlapping and shared accountabilities. Being agile means, you not only tolerate uncertainty and change but embrace and drive through it, demonstrating effective and compassionate leadership.
Quick tips to become more agile
- Take action by focusing on what you can control so that you keep moving forward.
- Increase your learning agility, or your ability to ‘know what to do when you don’t know what to do’. This includes learning from experience, getting out of your comfort zone, embracing new challenges, and pushing for new ideas.
- Develop your technical skills by attending relevant courses. By staying up to date with what’s going on in your industry, you are more resilient to change and can avoid the stressful situation of having to learn as you go.
Self-awareness – how we see ourselves and how we think others see us – is essential when working with diverse teams. Without self-awareness and self-knowledge, it’s difficult to be a good leader because you don’t know what you’re good at, where you need help, and what situations throw you off track.
Research suggests that when we can see ourselves clearly, we are more creative and confident. We build stronger relationships, make sounder decisions, and communicate more effectively.
Quick tips to develop self-awareness
- Ask for feedback. It’s one of the fastest ways to learn about yourself and grow.
- Keep a journal to help you understand yourself better.
- Ask ‘what,’ not ‘why’. For example, don’t ask ‘Why am I not being productive today?’ but rather ‘What about my environment is influencing my productivity?’ ‘What’ questions help us stay objective and find solutions more easily.
Influence is getting someone to voluntarily do what you want them to do. It should not be confused with power or control or manipulating others to get your way. Rather, it’s based on trust and working effectively with people over whom you have no authority. You want to inspire them to behave in a particular way, leveraging key tactics that involve, connect, and engage them.
Quick tips to become more influential
- Leading by example is a great way to positively influence clients, co-workers and individuals.
- Build trust by showing a genuine concern for others’ interests, needs, motivations, and values.
- Appeal to their logic by tapping into others’ rational and intellectual positions. By doing this, you won’t struggle to get them to follow your lead.
Hone your leadership skills to excel at your tech job
Developing soft skills is often overlooked by tech professionals during their studies or at the start of their careers. This means exposure to human skills, such as leadership, might not happen until you’re well-established in the workplace.
One of the best ways to understand, internalise and practise leadership skills is by working with a Career Coach to unpack your strengths, areas of improvement and career ambitions.
If you’re interested in finding out more about our Career Accelerators and how a Career Coach can help you become a leader in your own career, book a call with one of our Enrolment Advisors today.
- Book a call with an advisor on the Melbourne Business School Career Accelerator in Digital Marketing: Analytics and Strategy
- Book a call with an advisor on the King’s UX Design Career Accelerator
- Book a call with an advisor on the King’s Product Management Career Accelerator
- Book a call with an advisor on the LSE Data Analytics Career Accelerator