Mike C

A Leadership Blog

Why Leaders Need Technical Skills as Well as People Skills

Introduction

Leaders are individuals that need to have certain skill sets in order to succeed. They have to be able to balance both technical and people skill sets (two very different sides of the brain). Without these skills, it is rather easy for a leader to be overlooked or ineffective at best with their ability to drive change forward.

Leaders have to balance each side to be able to maximize the results that their team is able to achieve. Leadership is about optimizing every bit of the department that they have. To optimize, you have to know how to work with other people and use technology as a way to help them to work forward.

What are people skills?

People skills can rather loosely be defined as how well you are able to relate and interact with other individuals. It includes knowing when to tell certain jokes to acknowledging/addressing certain issues. There are a plethora of other skills that accompany this skill set. These skills determine how well you are able to relate to others and integrate with them on a regular basis. People skills determine how well that you are able to influence others (which is important if you are looking to lead).

There are any number of posts and videos that show and explain why a failure of having people skills will result in the failure of someone to be happy. Many individuals that are socially awkward find themselves incapable of moving up or being able to start their own families. Leaders in of themselves have to have these skills in place in order to succeed on their mission.

What are technical skills?

Technical skills are on the opposite end of the spectrum than people skills. These are the harder, more easily taught skills that can be used to perform any number of day to day tasks. These are skills such as programming, using Microsoft Office, Quickbooks and others. They are the skills that are acquired from years of studying and learning. Many leaders seem to overemphasize these skills on their development since they are much easier to acquire and use SMART goals than anything else.

These skills are important in part due to the fact they are needed. They are warranted in a job. They are what a business needs to carry out their functions accordingly. Leaders MUST have these in order to succeed at carrying out their day to day. Many of these skills are important to effectively work and move forward the business vision.

Why leaders fail at people skills

Some of the biggest reasons why leaders fail at using people skills:

  • They never learned them growing up
    • Parents could have tried to teach them but wound up giving up because the child did not want to learn.
    • Child could have just never had a social life to learn the skills to adapt.
  • Role models exhibited poor social skills or no social skills.
    • Parents or guardians often might have been too busy to invest in developing their child.
    • The same individuals could have also been uninterested or incapable of relating to their kids.
  • They developed or have a mental illness.
    • Depression, Autism and other illnesses can negatively impact and effect how well a person is able to relate to others.
    • Anger management or stress management issues are also a factor.
  • Traumatic experiences that have lead them to not interact with others.
    • Sometimes a leader could have been abused as a child that lead to other factors causing them to be antisocial.
    • A death of a loved one could have contributed to a traumatic experience, especially if they were a close relative or friend.
  • Bad past experiences with being social (such as being bullied)
    • Traumatic experiences like this make it harder for some individuals to want to come out of their shell.

These are just a brief list of some of the reasons why a leader might being failing at being sociable or personable with others. Leaders sometimes get into a habit of not using social skills either since the nature of their jobs often cause them to be busier than normal. As a result, you cannot just look at some of these reasons as the sole reason for why a leader might be failing at using social skills.

Why leaders fail at using technical skills

Much like personal skills, leaders can fail at using technical skills. These can be attributed to some of the following:

  • Uncomfortable use of a new piece of technology
    • Some technology can be rather difficult to get used to.
  • Age or Familial Background
    • Some individuals by sheer fact of their age or their upbringing may make it hard for them to adjust to using technology.
  • No previous experience with technology whether in former roles or personal life
    • This goes with the previous section, but there are some individuals that might not have had a chance to develop the skills in former jobs or roles.
  • Cultural background
    • Some cultures tend to not be as interested in technology or be able to afford a new computer (or other device).

These could be contributing factors with why individuals might struggle with using or developing technological skills. Keep in mind that there are other reasons why a person might be struggling to pick up these skills.

Why should leaders have both?

Many organizational leadership programs are more focused on the people element. Their focus is important since that you cannot be a leader without being able to influence others. People skills will help leaders to integrate within an organization and be able to create cohesion with their teams. Knowing how to manage others is important because that is what most leaders are going into the program are looking to develop.

People skills are ones that we need to have with anyone, not just leaders. Leaders need it more because they have to balance the variety of individuals on their team. They have to integrate individuals on their team. Leaders need people skills to balance the disagreements that arise as a result.

For technical skills, they need to know how to utilize technology in order to drive their organization forward. Technology makes it easier to account for things and also be able to automate various tasks that might be within their particular organization or department (think autoresponders). Tools like this can make a system or a process repeatable (and even more so).

Leaders must be able to utilize this information to their advantage. Leaders are all about being able to help their followers be able to carry out their tasks as best as possible. Knowing these skills can make it easier for a leader to be able to bridge the game between the more in depth and complicated to the people that they have on their staff.

Thoughts on developing technical skills

One of the best ways to develop technical skills is to enroll in after school programs or community enrichment programs offered by a community college. Community colleges offer courses such as Office 365 or Quickbooks. Courses like this are great since they are not entirely a semester long and can be easily manageable with a family and a job.

Another way that you could develop some of these skills is through an external course program like Udemy. This can make it rather easy for anyone that has an extremely busy schedule or on a budget. Udemy is a way that you can use video courses that can be watched at any time and anywhere. Many of them include additional resources like PDFs that you could print off.

Lastly, look at books that you can use. Many individuals like having the reference at hand. They are, for lack of a good way of saying this, unable or unwilling to really be able to learn these skills elsewhere. Books are a good way to help them learn some of these skills. They are great for additional reference in the future.

Thoughts on developing people skills

People skills are a little harder to fully develop and grow in an adult. Much of this should have been learned growing up and should have been taught to children. Leaders that struggle with this though are not beyond hope at all. They can still learn and develop rather great people skills.

The trick here is to acknowledge that you need to build them and that you need to invest. Things like Meetup are great for getting someone who is not normally social out there with other like-minded individuals. Many people could use to have groups like this as a way to help themselves get out. Getting out there will be the best way to start learning what is or is not appropriate (as well as learning how to read non-verbal cues).

If you happen to have an issue like Autism or Aspergers (Aspergers are essentially high functioning Autism), there is hope for you as well. The best thing to do is to find a therapist or a psychologist that has a focus on this niche. They can help you to be able to develop and craft a plan to learn how to interact with others.

There are ways to develop social skills. The biggest thing that you need to do as a leader is to focus on getting yourself out there. Accept invitations to hang out with others. Accept invitations to go to a dinner party. Situations like this can help you to be able to start learning how to interact with others and develop some of these skills as an adult.

Create a development plan

For leaders, you need to develop a plan for yourself. If you don’t, you are likely to NOT succeed. You are likely to NOT make any progress anywhere. That much is sure and that much is important. Take the investment in yourself first and move forward with that plan.

You have to set goals as you go. Goals that are easily measurable and achievable (but still make you work for them). Outline a date that you want to achieve a particular goal. Perhaps you want to learn 500 Spanish words to interact with Spanish speakers in one month. Perhaps you want to be an Excel master in 3 months. Define things like this on the front end and then break them down accordingly.

A plan like this is much more likely to be successful the more that you have thought it out and planned it out. It is much more likely to incorporate some of the issues that you might have and be able to address them accordingly.

Conclusion

If you are looking to become a leader, then there is a need for you to develop yourself first. You need to make sure that your skills and interpersonal skills are sharp in order to be able to lead accordingly. You must be able to interact and manage a variety of individuals that are difficult. If you struggle with this, then it is rather hard for you to succeed.

Lacking these skills will also make it hard for you to be able to succeed in other areas of life as well. Developing these skills are also going to affect your ability to integrate with any organizational structure.