As leader there, secondary skills trump your technical abilities

By now, you've seen or heard countless times the importance of developing social or 'secondary' skills for accelerating both executive and career development.

Quite frankly, and in my observation, there are those individuals who outright prefer to be a loner and as such, stand out to the side, & do it all themselves. Collaboration may or may not be part of an individual's daily lexicon. (not the least bit judgmental here—that's okay.) In fact, this thread sorta follows the thesis "To go fast, go alone. To go further, go together."

Came across an Op-Ed piece recently in the WSJ authored by Michael Malone that triggered this particular stream of consciousness. 

"Those talents by which you earned your college degrees and first made your professional reputation can drive success for the first 10 years of your career. After that "secondary skills"—social qualities like the ability to interact well with colleagues—become the key to continued success." This according to Anil Singhal, co-founder of NetScout. 

Further, Singhal believes that initially, organizations value, reward and nurture primary skills, rather than secondary skills. Unless a person moves into mentoring or management roles, these folks productivity tends to tail off over time.

Singhal says that developing a capacity to lead creates an avenue for sustained success. From my own personal experience, in the field, you rely almost exclusively on your technical talent. As you ascend through the ranks and step into a leadership role, your technical talent becomes less important. Maybe you have found that to be the case as well.

Unifying a team around a single vision is a gift that not everyone shares. "The ability to tell appropriate, compelling and inspiring stories" is essential according to Silicon Valley icon John Hennessy.

Leadership skills don't just happen. They are learned and need cultivation to prosper. "You have to learn to ask intelligent questions, not just find the answers yourself," says Hennessy. Thus, a mediocre technologist can become a great leader while a superstar scientist can become a lousy boss. It happens.

Shifting focus from personal productivity to supporting the team is a major part of leadership transition. Being able to "peer around the corner" and spot trends is accretive. Communication and leadership skills are multiplicative, perhaps exponential. They help make the whole team more valuable. 

 

 

 

jsexton

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