“The real danger is not that computers will begin to think like men, but that men will begin to think like computers.”
Sydney J. Harris
Leadership mastery in the digital age requires an integration of skills. Whether your dominant skill is technology aptitude or your dominant skill is dealing with people the future requires all of us to integrate our skills to achieve mastery of leadership in the digital age.
If you are a tech-savvy leader it is likely that you are smart, capable, analytical, process oriented, fast and focused. These skills are highly valued in the workplace and now it is time to integrate tech skills with people management skills in order to improve overall leadership effectiveness and to move your team and the organization forward. The skills needed to be a masterful leader in these digital times include being tech-savvy AND being an evolutionary.
In the past the development of people skills have often been put aside as too ‘touchy feely’ or non-important and in the past decade there has been a higher value placed on technological skills. Since the global economic challenges of 2008 progressive organizations have noticed the gap and have been investing in training and developing their leaders to now include highly developed leadership skills as they relate to the ‘people’ side of the business. A talented, trained workforce is an asset that companies are now understanding the value of and as such now know that they must have great leaders who inspire and develop the talent within or their good talent will leave and go elsewhere.
A few years ago I had a consulting contract with a high tech company that was experiencing challenges with keeping their Generation Y employees. Upon investigation it was discovered that the Baby Boomer leaders were not adapting to the attitudes and work styles of the Gen Y. In that company the Baby Boomer leaders had an attitude of superiority and demanded all employees to conform, the old style of ‘my way or the highway’. As you can imagine this did not go over very well with the Gen Y employees and a good number of highly skilled employees were leaving in droves.
As leaders in technology become younger and younger the challenges have switched to having the leadership knowledge and understanding of human behavior in order to keep the team happy, functioning and creating superior results.
Baby Boomer leaders had an attitude of superiority and demanded all employees to conform. As you can imagine this did not go over well with the Gen Y employees and a good portion of them were leaving in droves.
There is a need in today’s modern workplace and the workplace of the future to have leaders who are adaptable, astute, and able to mobilize people to perform their work at their highest levels, manage remote teams and flexible work teams and be technologically savvy, leaders who are more than good leaders; leaders who have leadership mastery.
With a lot of focus being put on the technological aspects of the work many leaders have lost sight of good change leadership tactics or have never been exposed to them.
In this chapter we want to look at the difference between a tech savvy leader and a people savvy leader.
Let’s take a look at the chart below to see examples of some of the main differences:
Tech Savvy Leader
Focused on computer
Focused on data
Focused on output
Impatient with people issues
Communicate in tech language
Less aware of emotions of others
People Savvy Leader
Open and curious
Focused on people
Focused on what data does for people
Deals with people issues with understanding
Highly aware of others’ emotional states
As you read through the lists for each description of the tech savvy leader and the people savvy leader you may have found yourself judging some of the items on the lists. Or you may have thought that you have a high level of each of the skills listed.
For example I have a client who is an extremely people focused CEO however she lacks the technological knowledge so she is people savvy but not so strong with the tech savvy. As her consultant I am working with her to develop both areas so that she can be more effective as a leader. When I refer to technological knowledge what I am referring to is having technological awareness, and function- not becoming a tech expert!
Leaders seeking to achieve mastery who are more technological savvy choose to spend the time required to develop their people skills in addition to the time spent on continually developing their technological knowledge and awareness.
Recently I was presenting for a major multinational technology group in Orlando Florida and when I present I give out my cell number so that my audience can text me while I speak and ask me questions. This really works well because the questions are anonymous (unless they want to self identify) and I can answer them while going through the content of my presentation. One of the questions I was asked while talking about the need for tech professionals to improve their people skills side of leadership was, “how do I get my team members to just stop all of their politicking and focus on the work?”
I texted the leader back to ask if it was okay to openly announce the question and address it as a benefit to the group. He said yes and so I asked a question back, “do you have regular team update meetings either in person or by Skype?” the leader answered, ‘no’ and then I asked, “do you openly share what is happening with your team so that they have the latest information first hand?” and he answered, “no”.
People don’t leave their jobs – they leave their leaders – a harsh reality and one you have likely experienced as an employee yourself and as a leader.
The reason I wanted this to be discussed to the entire group is because in this scenario the leader was focused purely on his tech savvy skills and was not employing any people savvy skills at all and there were many others similar to him in the audience. The person who texted the question had the courage to self identify to the group and we worked through how he can get his team to stop politicking and focus on the work, the ideas presented to him were:
#1- Have a team meeting (virtual or in person) on a regular basis (weekly if possible) to address what the goals are for the upcoming week, who is doing what and the latest news from your boss and the company.
#2 – Identify the one or two people who are the ‘influencers’ of the politicking and take them out for a coffee or lunch to talk about the company or schedule a one on one Skype if they are a remote worker, their satisfaction with their job and what they need to help them focus on getting the work done. Having the support of the influencer(s) is a major advantage.
When the audience member was given these ideas he said out loud, “geez this managing people is a lot of work!” and therein lies the real challenge for most leaders!
Many leaders get caught up in deadlines, tech updates, business results and they forget that to achieve any of these things successfully you must rely on your people. People are not machines they are human, emotional and need to be treated as valued members of your team.
People don’t leave their jobs- they leave their leaders- a harsh reality and one you have likely experienced both as an employee yourself and as a leader.
As a leader you have to ask yourself if you are willing to help people succeed, to grow people and ultimately to focus the time and energy to be a great leader. As the workplace continues to speed up and change it is more important now to focus on both the tech and people side of the business and this means knowing who you are as a leader and adapting to the reality of managing people.