Organizational leadership is challenging in any case. It requires maturity, focus, discipline, and extraordinary skills of communication and relationship-building. Good leaders are “go-with-the-flow” people who also stand on a foundation of tremendous mental and emotional discipline. So good leaders are already a valued commodity. And I just read an article in our local business journal pointing out the challenges that high-tech companies are having filling management jobs.
As a musician who loves classical music, I am in awe of the composers who imagine and create classical compositions, and if you’ll bear with me for a moment I’d like to suggest there’s a parallel here between those great composers and effective high-tech leaders.
A composer has to be extraordinarily good at elements of intelligence and personality that are wildly different in nature. They have to have a musical mind – unusually creative – attached to a firmly focused and organized mind – unusually disciplined — which can focus and fill in all the little black dots on the musical staff which then become the “program” that translates their artistic vision into something the musician can re-create according to their intentions.
A good manager/leader in a high-tech environment also must bring in two talent sets that are uncommon to find in one person. One, of course, is the ability to keep up with brilliant programmers and developers technically – to know enough about deeply technical matters to facilitate the work of the team. Matched to this high level of technical ability, the high-tech manager must also demonstrate an uncommon level of relational skill and emotional intelligence. This is especially true because highly skilled technical employees, because of their burning intelligence and their orientation to seeing the world through a technical lens are often more challenging to bring in to highly collaborative and mutually dependent teams.
A composer is an inspired artist with the discipline of a software developer, translating multiple colors of sound into bits and bytes of black-dotted code. A high tech leader is an artist who fashions nuanced and productive relationships, often shaded in grays and pastels, in a world of sharply lit, sometimes monochrome technical brilliance.
Both are amazing, and both are rare.