Anatomy of a Great Technology Leader

“I would love to see in twenty, thirty years time, what the anatomy of a technical leader is because I can tell you it's going to be vastly different from today.”

This roundtable expands upon HotTopics’ previous conversations around sustainable leadership by exploring the anatomy of what makes a great technology leader, which in turn can provide a sustainable type of leadership. 

These technology leaders discuss what they believe makes a great technology leader today, and how the nature of what makes a good leader has, and will continue, to change. 


Technology leader insights from:

With Sasha Qadri moderating this roundtable debate, the speakers include:


Watch highlights: Anatomy of a Great Technology Leader


This roundtable was recorded at The Studio. To find out more, click ‘The Studio’.

Ready to discover more? If you liked these highlights, click the button below to watch the full roundtable debate.




Technology leadership today 

Sasha Qadri opened the discussion by asking the roundtable speakers technology leaders what makes a great technology leader today. 

Forrester’s former CIO, Phil Brunkard, asserted that there has been a shift in the technology leader’s role in the sense that there is, and should be, a greater emphasis on being more rounded leaders. Phil expanded upon this through stating his belief that leaders need to “be curious and open to exploring new ideas”, which is fundamentally about “driving and adapting to change.” 

Miao Song, Global GLP CIO, drew attention to the significance of creating environments that are humane in order to bring out the best version of every team member. Miao also raised the concern that technology leaders often forget the importance of educating the whole organisation on digital literacy, going on to explain that leaders need to articulate “the art of the possible” through use of “language that people can understand.” 

Inx’s Director & Technology Search Specialist, Natalie Whittlesey, outlines the “interesting balancing act” between lining up potential innovations whilst simultaneously needing investment from the Board, for example. Amidst this, Natalie says it is important to “really listen to people in your teams” about their ideas, which is essential for trying to stay relevant as a business. For Natalie, you can only successfully achieve this if you allow your team to “keep trying to stay ahead”, which often involves adopting new approaches or initiatives. Enabling this freedom is therefore part of the anatomy of a great technology leader. 


A Changing, coaching style of leadership

Unique-U Coaching’s Executive Advisor & Tech Leadership Coach, Sarah Needham, emphasised the importance today, and in the future, of leaders connecting with people. For Sarah, enabling people to become the best version of themselves, through acting with humility, is what actually enables the technology to work. Leadership for Sarah means “creating spaces to help others see their blind spots” despite these being difficult conversations and areas to confront. This coaching aspect of leadership is an essential component of a great technology leader, and should be emphasised going forward. 

Sarah added that a great technology leader will have the ability not to get lost in their own business and technology, but are “are able to see what other people are doing”, including challenging topics, and learn from what they’re doing successfully. 

CIO Giles Lindsay (Santago Limited) echoes this sentiment in his advocacy of a coaching style of leadership. For Giles, the coaching mindset should come from a desire “to empower individuals to actually try things out, experiment, fail, and then pick themselves up and learn from those failures.” 

When asked by Sasha to reflect on some of his own experiences with leadership, Giles confessed to having had some unfavourable encounters with leaders who were “very command and control, very micromanagement, with lots of bureaucracy.” In these instances, for Giles this did not enable growth because mistakes were not made to accordingly be learnt from. Thus, inspiring his current approach to technological leadership which he hopes will continue into the future of leadership, confessing that he would “love to see in twenty, thirty years time, what the anatomy of a technical leader”, theorising that amidst the changing landscape of tech leadership towards this coaching style, that “it's going to be vastly different from today.”

Phil, when asked about the role of the leader in relation to planning for the future, visualised the leader as an explorer who will be “taking the customer and the organisation on a journey into the future.” The framing of the future as an opportunity for innovation exemplifies a shift in mindset about leadership, that breaks away from micromanagement, that Giles critiques, is in favour of creativity in business. 


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