Seven Essential Ingredients for Leadership

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 Page 12
Page 12 of 14

And recognizing world-class technology isn't as easy as paying top dollar for the newest, shiniest systems that vendors want to sell you, Strasnick says. In fact, as they increasingly deal with a mix of outside technology providers and internal staff, it's even more critical for IT leaders to keep the wool from being pulled over their eyes.

Taking that approach is what led Strasnick's group this year to move one of its core applications from a high-end storage-area network system to a lower-end SAN that delivers better performance while saving the company $5 million. That meant understanding that the lower-end system's ability to spread the I/O load over multiple disk spindles provided significantly better performance than the combination of sophisticated algorithms and cache used by the higher-cost infrastructure.

"It's important for the IT management staff to have confidence in the technical expertise of their CIO, so they can feel confident proposing something other than the safest solution for a critical project," Strasnick says.

Not that it's easy for people with a technology bent to combine that mind-set with soft-side leadership skills, says William Pence, senior vice president and chief technology officer at Napster Inc., the first legal online music subscription service. "It's rare to find someone with both hard and soft skills in sufficient depth," he says.

Pence himself holds a doctorate in engineering and has led what he calls a "hard-core" career in technology, having spent 10 years at IBM, in the R&D lab and the software group.

He credits his highly technical background with giving him a "sixth sense" for sorting through good and bad technology approaches. And it's important for him to maintain his technology edge, he says, since he's leading a group of talented programmers. "It's a cultural thing," Pence says. "If you lose the ability to do the work yourself, you're not viewed as an engineer anymore -- you're seen as a con artist."

However, what helped pull him into a leadership role at IBM and continues to sustain his leadership ability is his passion to see technology applied to real market needs. "Nothing drives me crazier than good technology wasted," Pence says. "I try to stay deep down in the technology discussions and define the direction of our design issues, but what I love is to see stuff succeed from a business context."

Technology Smarts: How to Soak Up the Skill
  • Look for opportunities and assignments that give you hands-on experience with how technology works for the business.
  • If you run into a technology concept you don't understand, take time during your nonwork hours to research and read up on the subject to get up to speed.
  • Forget about keeping current on every new technology widget that comes along. Instead, get your head above the details and develop a metatechnology mind-set that incorporates meeting business objectives and providing the resources that your staff needs.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 Page 12
Page 12 of 14
7 inconvenient truths about the hybrid work trend
Shop Tech Products at Amazon