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Technical Leadership – An Introduction

Posted by Sri Subramanian (@whosissri) on June 25, 2011

As Justin points out, it is performance review time. It is time to take stock, and to use this conversation as an opportunity to steer the ship. Unfortunately, often, we don’t know the destinations (what does it mean to be a leader at the next level), and if we know the destination, we don’t know the path (how do I get those opportunities to hone the skills I don’t have, and prove the ones I do). This is particularly difficult for those of us who pursue the technical ladder, since most leadership books, seminars, classes, and other learning opportunities focus on the management-type.

The tricky part of about leadership transitions is that to be a bigger leader, we don’t need to do more and better. We sometimes need to do stop doing what we have been successfully doing, and do different things altogether. This is particularly confusing since:

  • No one tells us this.
  • Most companies have more salary grades and titles than there are palpable leadership transitions. This leads to confusion as to whether the next promotion requires a real transition or not.
  • Most companies, due to a combination of unintended errors, end up with people of all leadership levels at all grades. More confusion ensues, as we compare ourselves to so called leaders at the next level, and wonder why that promotion does not come our way.

Stay tuned for a series of posts about the different transitions in the technical ladder, and some of the challenges involved in each of these transitions.

Technical Leadership – An Introduction

Technical Leadership – The First Transition

Technical Leadership – The Leadership Transition

Technical Leadership – Impacting The Customer Experience

Technical Leadership – The Technologist


  • I am a software engineer by training, and have worked in the software industry all this time. As you read on, you may notice this bias. I do, however, believe that what I outline translates well into other highly technical industries – pharmaceutical, semiconductor, automobile engineering, and such. I am very interested in hearing from leaders both in my and other industries on their thoughts.
  • My sincere thanks to Charan, Drotter, and Noel. This guide is clearly fashioned after the management leadership transitions, outlined in their book Leadership Pipeline. I am sure I have subconsciously picked ideas from many others. If you notice parallels, please just leave a comment, to draw attention to it.

5 Responses to “Technical Leadership – An Introduction”

  1. Meg Bear said

    Boy does this post bring back memories. The best one was the sage advice I got from a fellow “fresher” in our first job (tech support). He had joined a couple months before me and was equally lost. At one point when I was asking his help on something, he leaned over and in a very serious voice he said, “you might want to spread your questions around so that you are not always asking the same person all the time”.

    I still smile when I remember that moment. The survival skills I learned in this first job still serve me well today.


  2. […] am all about how we make transitions. I just want to add to Seth’s excellent post that, sometimes in order to delight, one must […]

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