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8 skills you need to be a successful IT executive

Rich Hein | July 23, 2013
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.

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.

5. Understand Complex Business Problems
With a background in IT, you are accustomed to focusing on the problems directly in front of you. At the executive level, you have to know the nuts and bolts of the business and how those projects fit into the bigger picture.

"Moving into an executive role requires the ability to think about problems that have multiple origins, conflicting stakeholders, and dynamic environments —where changing one facet can have immediate unintended consequences," says Rucker.

6. Know How to Lead in a Crisis
Midnight outages, failed deliveries and long-term budget cuts always threaten the successful delivery of enterprise transformations, projects and initiatives. If you are going to be an effective IT leader, you must learn how to recognize a crisis when it happens, manage it and guide your team to stay ahead of the curve.

"When things go wrong, and they will, you have to know how to manage the fallout in the ivory tower as well as on the ground so that you maintain your status as executive leader. Getting up gracefully is a skill well-learned, especially when the economy, poor profits, or external events knock you down. It happens to everyone, but your leadership character is defined by how you handle it," says Rucker.

7. Be Able to Market IT to the Business
As an IT leader you have to be leading the charge. You have to educate your peers and stakeholders on the value that IT can bring to the table. One way to do that is to let people know about successes. They could include how a change in processes increased sales or how updating the company's Web software platform increased customer satisfaction. Whatever the case is, you have to be comfortable talking about your successes and the solutions that technology can help implement.


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