Is IT leadership the toughest job in the world?\n\tIt better be, because Leading IT: (Still) the Toughest Job in the World just hit the shelves. I\u2019m calling it a second edition because it includes everything from the original, and I didn\u2019t want to mislead anyone who already owns it.\n\tBut it contains as much new material as old \u2014 if you own the first edition and decide to read this one too, you won\u2019t be disappointed. It is, perhaps, a second first edition.\n\tBut is IT leadership really the toughest job in the world, or am I just pandering?\n\tThe answer is, while I\u2019m not entirely above pandering, running an IT organization probably is more difficult than any other leadership role in the world of commerce, because IT leaders face a uniquely difficult set of challenges.\n\tChallenge #1: Smarts\n\tHigh on the list is a point made by InfoWorld\u2019s Eric Knorr in the foreword he was kind enough to write for the new edition: Technical professionals mostly figure they\u2019re smarter than the managers they report to. Not only does this generality hold up pretty well, but the better the IT manager, the better it holds up.\n\tThis doesn\u2019t make IT unique, of course \u2026 it\u2019s true for any department staffed by engineers. Leadership is getting others to follow, and when the people who are supposed to follow you all figure they\u2019re smarter than you are, leading them is a whole lot more interesting.\n\tChallenge #2: Product Complexity\n\tImagine you had to create a detailed view of your company\u2019s technical architecture. Not just a functional view that shows the building blocks and their interconnections, but a blueprint-level specification that shows everything and describes how the parts interact.\n\tNow imagine you run out of Prozac.\n\tIt is, I suppose, possible that complex products like planes, trains and automobiles might have more and more complex moving parts.\n\tBut I doubt it, because the engineers who design these products have a huge advantage: They get to specify components that are designed to fit together. IT, in contrast, buys functional building blocks and has to make them work together in spite of their design inconsistencies.\n\tAnd IT leaders have to run organizations capable of implementing, maintaining, and operating all of this complexity.\n\tChallenge #3: Foxes vs Hedgehogs\n\tThe ancient Greek poet Archilochus said, \u201cThe fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.\u201d Jim Collins turned into one of his Good-to-Great principles, even though, based on what I learned about animal behavior and neurobiology back in my sociobiology days, I\u2019m pretty sure the biggest thing hedgehogs know is, \u201cCurl into a ball and stick out your spines when a fox is trying to eat you.\u201d\n\tNot that arguing the accuracy of ancient Greek poetry with Jim Collins is a good use of time.\n\tAnyway \u2026 when you run a whole business, not only can you focus on one big thing, focusing the company on one big thing is your job.\n\tWhen you run IT, you don\u2019t get to delegate all the nasty complexities. At least, not entirely. All those smart people, who are responsible for all of those moving parts that were never designed to interoperate? You have to be able to communicate with all of them on their terms. In IT, hedgehog = empty suit.\n\tChallenge #4: The difference between ignorance and apathy\n\tIt\u2019s \u201cI don\u2019t know and I don\u2019t care,\u201d which, sadly, describes the attitude of far too many business executives about information technology. The same people who willingly invest millions in focus groups and taste tests to find out how to improve the company\u2019s products, and more millions to understand how customers are responding to an advertising campaign, want you and your organization to figure out the information technology the company needs on your own.\n\tNot in principle. In principle they want to be heavily involved. But in practice they can\u2019t spare the time. They also can\u2019t spare much staff time either. Except, that is, for the one or two people whose time they can cheerfully spare because they\u2019re known to be worthless.\n\tMeanwhile, there are investments you need to make whose costs will be quite tangible, but whose benefits will be invisible \u2026 investments in the IT equivalent of preventive maintenance.\n\tTry to explain their importance and everyone\u2019s eyes glaze over. Make them anyway and you\u2019re accused of buying technology for technology\u2019s sake. Fail to make them and you suffer the usual litany of outages, slowdowns, and costly overdue upgrades.\n\tIs leading IT the toughest job in the world? Maybe, maybe not.\n\tIt\u2019s certainly tough enough.\n\t--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------\n\tFor this week's Great Quotation, click here.