Leadership Qualities in Tech

We hear it all the time: “she is a born leader”, “people follow him naturally”. From kindergarten to grad school and beyond there are some people who seem to naturally possess qualities that make them confident to lead, and others happy to follow them. 

To succeed in business – including within the tech industry, organizations need followers. These followers take the form of loyal, hardworking team members, as well as loyal, trusting customers. And in order to follow, someone has to lead. 

The common qualities of a leader

The common qualities of a leader

Thousands of books are published on leadership every year, however, each one has a slightly different opinion on what great leadership looks like, and who can be a great leader. According to Motion  Recruitment’s IT Salary Guide, management, including executive managers, is an area with a significant skills gap that organizations are having to be creative to fill. But what makes a good manager? And are managers born, or can they be made?  

There are some commonly agreed qualities of leadership, which include vision, energy, authority and strategic direction. However, even mediocre leaders tend to display those qualities in some form (although their vision and strategic direction may be misplaced). So rather than asking “what makes a leader”, let’s ask “what makes an inspirational leader?”

The qualities of an inspirational leader

Inspirational leaders aren’t just leaders that people follow because there is no alternative. They are leaders that people want to follow, and often serve, for the good that the leader perpetuates, be that a product, a service, or a belief. 

According to Goffee and Jones, great leaders: 

  • Reveal their weaknesses, while it may be tempting for leaders to portray themselves as super-human and beyond reproach, successful leaders are not afraid to expose some weakness. There is a line here, of course. A good leader won’t expose fatal flaws or errors, but by acknowledging their humanity, for example, an inability to resist a sweet tooth, or openly admitting to not being a morning person, leaders open a dialogue of trust and collaboration, which makes followers more likely to feel solidarity and offer support. 
  • Are effective sensor – great leaders wear their intuition like a badge of honor. This intuition means that they know which weaknesses to expose, to whom, and when. It also means that they can pick up on subtle shifts in attitudes and behaviors and address them before they become problems. And, of course, a great sense of intuition helps today’s leaders to identify tomorrow’s opportunities, be that a junior employee with incredible potential, or a winning business opportunity. 
  • Practice tough empathy – leaders, like good parents, need to think not just about what their charges want but what they need. And all good leaders (and parents) know that those two things are not necessarily the same. A good leader needs to care about their team, and let them know that they care. However, they also need to recognize when they need to stand back and look at a situation from an organization-wide and benefit-focused perspective. 
  • Dare to be different – whether someone is born to lead or they spend a lifetime acquiring the critical skills that help them to be great leaders in their industry, all leaders have one thing in common: they are not afraid to be themselves. In fact, excellent leaders don’t just acknowledge or embrace what makes them different to other people; they leverage it, using it to their advantage to gain followers and bring their team along as active participants in their journey. 

What do strong leaders bring to the workplace?

What do strong leaders bring to the workplace

Inspirational leaders may be relatable, compassionate, intuitive and unique but there are other qualities that, according to Arden University in the UK, every good leader possesses. These qualities are more quantifiable than the ones detailed by Goffee and are easier to spot in the workplace. According to Arden, good leaders all possess the following:

Decisiveness – true leaders don’t shy away from making decisions, even – especially – tough ones, and most importantly when under pressure. Leaders need to take a step back, determine all the facts available in the time available, and make a considered decision. Leadership lasts beyond the decision, however; a good leader will constantly and critically review the outcomes to ensure that the right path was taken, and assess any additional activity that may be required. 

Trust – there is no point leading a team that does not trust you. A great leader is followed by people who trust them, and who they know they can trust in return. Building trust requires honesty and excellent communication skills, which is Arden’s third leadership characteristic. 

Communication is a critical vector to successful leadership. Strong leaders don’t just create the vision, they map how they are going to get there and, most importantly, how to bring their team along with them. 

Empowerment is just one of the natural outcomes of effective communication and strong trust. By trusting your team, you can empower them to work hard for you, and themselves, which automatically breeds greater mutual trust and improved team performance. 

Resilience is the final, and one of the most important, characteristics highlighted by Arden University. Leaders must not be challenge-averse; they need to face challenges head on and act rationally and with the organization and team’s goals in mind. Resilience in leadership extends beyond simply picking oneself up again; a leader needs to be able to hold an entire team up when it really matters. 

The zone of indifference

We usually take “indifference” to be a negative concept; if someone is indifferent to something, then they don’t really care. We want our teams to care about outcomes, so indifference is something that leaders actually battle against. However, when it comes to a willingness to follow a leader, indifference is a good thing. The Zone of Indifference is a term coined by Wood, who defines it as the range of activities that employees or “followers” will do willingly and without question. A large zone of indifference means that your employees are more likely to say “yes” to requests. However, if it is very large (i.e. if your team say “yes” to even the most unreasonable requests) there may be some cultural issues that need to be addressed. While a large zone of indifference can be a good thing, one that is too large can mean that you might end up pushing your team too far.


There are literally thousands of books, papers, Ted Talks, research papers and podcasts about leadership. Some leadership qualities are undisputed across the different literature, while some specialists go to great lengths to define specific types, styles and models of leadership. For people working in tech, it is a good idea to start actively gaining some of the leadership skills and experience cited by different specialists; the unique combination of niche tech skills and abilities and leadership qualities could be in huge demand in the near future. For those in leadership roles, a continued commitment to checking in on progress and developing those skills will help them to become strong leaders with a dedicated team to support their goals. 

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