Why technical leaders fail

“On the other end of the spectrum, leadership requires you to be a generalist who is obsessed with execution and good enoughs.”

Why technical leaders fail

Good software developer != Good leader. Why do we stumble as technical leaders…

As an industry, software is unique in that it attracts true creators. At the heart of every coffee-slurping geek is someone who is passionate about using their mind to create something from scratch. These individuals often yearn for a better world and see things not for what they are, but for the potential of what they could be.

Unfortunately, software projects and start-ups have notoriously high failure rates. This is particularly true for entrant leaders who were formerly technical. It seems counterintuitive that an industry with so many bright and capable people struggles to deliver results.

The heart of the problem lies in the fact that as an engineer, you live in the world of ideas. You are used to exploring the recesses of every problem, losing yourself in the world of solutions and efficient designs.

The heart of the problem lies in the fact that as an engineer, you live in the world of ideas. You are used to exploring the recesses of every problem, losing yourself in the world of solutions and efficient designs. You value micro-optimization and doing things right. You strive to make each aspect of your code or algorithm as perfect as possible.

On the other end of the spectrum, leadership requires you to be a generalist who is obsessed with execution and good enoughs. There are so many facets to running a business that technical leaders often get lost in the world of ideas and suffer from analysis paralysis. What matters more than solving every scenario perfectly is execution. The ability to get things done trumps generating endless ideas of how some knob in the complex malaise of people and processes can be turned. The line between visionary and dogmatic is unfortunately a very fine one.

To be an effective leader, you need to be able to prioritize, delegate, and execute. You need to be able to balance the needs of your team, your customers, and your business. You need to be able to navigate the complexities of running a business and make tough decisions. And you need to be able to adapt and learn from your mistakes.

It is not easy to make the transition from an engineer to a leader. It requires a shift in mindset, a willingness to embrace new challenges, and the humility to ask for help when needed. But for those who are able to adapt, the rewards can be immense. As a leader, you have the opportunity to inspire and empower your team, to create something that truly makes a difference in the world, and to leave a lasting legacy.