If you are a CIO or high-level tech executive, you probably earned your promotions the old-fashioned way: You listened carefully. You learned from your mistakes. Over time, you developed a reputation for being trustworthy and effective. You became the go-to person for solving tech problems, enabling the business and helping the enterprise hit its numbers.
In some respects, our generation had it easy. But the next generation of IT leaders won't have time to make many mistakes. They'll have to hit the ground running and they'll need to keep running to keep ahead of incredibly rapid changes in the technology ecosystem. The availability of real-time big data analytics will breed CEOs and boards that have zero patience for mistakes that cost the company money.
Tomorrow's tech executives won't have the luxury of hiding behind a screen of superior knowledge. Your judgment and your business acumen will be far more valuable than your technical skills.
Most important, your social skills will be absolutely critical to your success. In the past, many executives referred to social skills as "soft skills." I would argue that in today's ultra-competitive customer-centric markets, social skills are actually more important than "hard skills" - like number crunching, forecasting and budgeting.
Don't get me wrong, the ability to read a ledger will always be important. In the world of modern business, there are machines and software tools that will crunch the numbers for you; but there is still no replacement for the kinds of human leadership skills that inspire loyalty, devotion, hard work and over-the-top effort.
Great leaders inspire trust and develop winning teams. Nobody has figured out how to program a computer for leadership; and frankly, I doubt there will ever be a replacement for human leadership.
With that thought in mind, I'm developing a list of key skills and personality traits that tech execs will need to succeed in the 21st century enterprise. I'll preview a beta version of the list here in my weekly newsletter soon. Stay tuned!