As a software engineer, the best managers I ever had were the ones with a solid technical background: they understood what we were building, provided valuable critique, kept my ego in check and showed me that management and technical aptitude were not mutually exclusive.
In my various management roles I’ve tried to model these traits in my own style: find and develop strong talent, give them space and cover to deliver, continue to engage in technology.
A CTO that’s truly in touch with current technology, and able to communicate:
- has a better appreciation for what their team is working on: can better guide decisions and cut bait when needs be
- are better placed to guide the business, both transactionally and strategtically
- can more easily sniff out extravagent vendor claims
- is more likely (all other things being equal) to attract talent
- can more easily act autocratically in a crisis
Over the years I’ve heard a lot of leaders say they wish they could be more technical. There’s no secret to it: it has to be important to you.
In my case, it’s easy to make time for something I enjoy: I find challenges that need to be solved (but aren’t mission critical) and use them to learn new languages, frameworks and platforms.
It’s not a fatal flaw for a leader in technology to not be technical. Perhaps it is to chase after something that’s not really important to you?