8 Skills You Need to Be a Successful IT Executive

The skills that helped you become an IT pro and climb the ladder aren't the same skills you need to succeed in the c-suite. Learn the skills necessary to break through to the top.

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Mon, July 22, 2013
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1. Know Your Leadership Style

Self-knowledge can be a make-or-break attribute. Knowing what you do well and where you need work is paramount to long-term success in any field, but it's especially important in IT where things tend to move at a frenetic pace.

"One of the most important aspects of being an IT executive is knowing what type of leadership style you have, learning to use that style to your advantage, and knowing when to tweak that style based on who you will be meeting with," says Rucker. "For instance, if you're a charismatic leader with big picture vision, but you're meeting with a CFO that is a detail-oriented pessimist, you need to know when to drive down to the data to relieve any fears."

2. Focus on Strategic Communication

Knowing how to deliver your message to different audiences is critical. "You need to have the ability to create and manage relationships with peers, coworkers and others. You really need to think of yourself as less of a technologist and more of a general manger. You've got to be able to understand the business and understand the impact that you and your team has on the business and be able to articulate that to other partners and within your own team," says Hugh Scott, CIO at Energy Plus Company.

As a leader you need to get your message through to people at all levels of the company with clarity, which can be challenging, according to Rucker. "It's about knowing how and when to shift the story so that everybody gets it and understands what it means for them. It's having the ability to use marketing, media, meetings and methods to change how your company or your customers think."

3. Learn How to Develop Talented High-Performance Teams

As an executive, a key trait is the ability to get things done through other people. The best leaders surround themselves with people who are smarter than they are. "Technical skills are what get you to a senior position but when you get to a leadership position you're going to spend 90 percent of your time managing people. Doing that correctly is all about leadership. It's creating that vision and making people want to follow you," says Brookmire.

Team leadership is an important skill, according to Brookmire. "If you think of an orchestra, you can think of yourself as a section leader now, but as you move up you have to become the conductor and bring all the sections together. It requires someone who can truly lead," he says.

You have to learn to let go, trust your people and delegate. "Your job is not to be the smartest person in the room. Your job is to hire people who are smarter than you. You have to get the best thinkers in the room, particularly people who complement your weaknesses," says Boudreau.

4. Develop a Strong Technology Strategy

Having a vision is one thing, but being able to turn that vision into an executable strategy is another. "They [new IT leaders] must learn what strategy means at the ground level and how to lead the times of technological change that comes from great ideas. They also have to learn how to use technology to create value both inside and outside the organization. It's no longer about implementing the latest tool to stay technologically relevant; it's about tying technological change to bottom line results, "says Rucker.

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