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Podcast: Lessons in Technology Leadership

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Listen to this roundtable debate focusing on the leadership styles adopted by this panel of senior technology executives during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Technology leadership has undergone a vast series of changes in recent times in what has been described as a period of intense learning and discovery. What leadership styles are senior technology leaders using now and how will this change in the future?

With Nikki Dean moderating, the speakers of this roundtable include:

  • Alan Hill, Director Public Sector Strategic Solutions, Splunk
  • Robert Sheesley, CIO, Wrench Group
  • James Gupwell, Managing Director, Wellbridge Consulting
  • Alex Bazin, CTO, Lewis Silkin LLP

Technology leadership styles

Presenter and technology communicator Nikki Dean asked the speakers of the roundtable what lessons they have learnt about their particular leadership style over the past couple of years. 

Director Public Sector Strategic Solutions at Splunk, Alan Hill, stated that his leadership style is based on face-to-face interactions. During the pandemic, this had been difficult for him to achieve. “It’s amazing how much you can miss in such a short video conversation”, he said. Alan explained that those watercooler moment interactions are becoming less frequent and people are missing out on important conversations. 

“I have followed my leadership style to be more purposeful”, said Wrench Group’s CIO, Robert Sheesley. He believes that leaders need to be more purposeful in the way they engage in conversation with employees. This doesn’t just apply to professional conversation, but other more natural and organic conversations that develop as a result of workplace interaction.

Another issue raised about the conditions of working nowadays is how easy it is for people to “drift off” during virtual meetings and conferences. “How do you make sure that people are engaged in the conversation? That’s really critical”, said James Gupwell, Managing Director at Wellbridge Consulting. James has noticed that some employees are having sidebar conversations outside of calls. He believes that building trust among the employee dynamic can help solve this problem. 

Hybrid working and technology leadership

CTO at Lewis Silkin LLP, Alex Bazin, has experience in running global teams and exercising a synchronous leadership style prior to the pandemic. He feels that the shift to remote working has leveled the playing field. Alex’s team is currently using a hybrid working model: “We’re being relatively relaxed but also fairly structured”. His team comes into the office two days a week, with one “anchor day” where everyone in the team is in at the same time to build that “shared culture”. 

“My previous company was actually a very young start-up and they encouraged relatively risky behavior”, said James. He encouraged hybrid working as long as colleagues took tests and other precautions before coming into the office. James noticed that the younger community came into the office more often. “A lot of those teams did come in on quite a regular basis but very much a hybrid basis”, he said. 

Will this last post pandemic?

Alan believes that the hybrid working culture is an important part of the recruitment process nowadays. Thinking back to his CIO role at the University of Exeter, Alan addresses the problems with working from home. “We must address this issue where people are stuck in their room, in a shared house, and want to come into the office”. The solution to this is to make accommodations for these people and designate a day in the week where the whole team can gather together.

Other leadership changes in the industry

Robert believes one of the main changes occurring in the industry is the way we now share knowledge. “I think people are now of the impression of sharing because we’re not in the office together”, he said. He recalls his previous role in M&A consulting, where he reportedly “worked anywhere and everywhere”. He added that knowledge sharing is something that has evolved in his organization and has a “higher priority” than it did three years ago.

“I think people have become more technology-comfortable over the last few years”, said Alex. He explained that, before, the legal industry was slow in adopting more technology-based working methods. Now, they are starting to use more traditional technology and “exciting” new things like AI workflow automation. Overall, Alex believes that they have implemented a variety of small, innovative changes that were forced on the organization during the pandemic.

Future approaches in leadership

The speakers of the roundtable were asked what kind of approaches they think emerging technology leaders will use in the future.

James feels that future technology leaders will incorporate more mobilization in their leadership styles. “Will people be walking around with a laptop or a tablet or will they be accessing more and more services through their phone?”, he said. James finds it difficult to think about what this looks like in five to ten years. “You really don’t know at this stage”, he explained. 

Nikki recalled doing some research on the concept of the metaverse and virtual reality. She found that experts have predicted people will be sending “holograms” of themselves to meetings ten years from now. 

Alan agrees with the view that the landscape of the workplace has changed. “I think the human factor side of this is really important from a leadership perspective”, he said. Alan explained that technology is changing rapidly and that it’s important to remember the human factor. When thinking about leadership in a virtual workplace, he asked: “How are they going to have fun? And how are they going to look after people’s wellbeing?”. 

Robert believes that the technology leader in the next generation will have to be more business-focused and value-driven. As technology advances, he said, the role of the CIO and the CTO will have to evolve simultaneously. “If you think about the next generation of leaders, most of them all grew up gaming”, he stated. As a result, the definition and characteristics of trust are going to have to evolve to fit into the future workplace environment.

This roundtable debate was recorded at The Studio. To find out more about The Studio and how you can apply to Speak alongside these leaders on October 18th, click here.