Which skills should future IT leaders be mentored on?

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CIO in Manufacturing, 1,001 - 5,000 employees
Based on what's being promoted these days in some of the top university programs, it does seem like technical skills are the majority of the headline. But as an IT leader, I've had to balance both hard and soft skills. The hard skills are important because you have to know the technologies to be able to help organizations identify opportunities and then bring those into the environment. Then the soft skills come into heavy play for the other end of the role. Once you have technologies in your environment, you want to get the maximum utilization and benefit out of them. That often requires soft skills like negotiation, collaboration and communication with other business leaders, so that the organization isn’t just continually chasing the new shiny thing. Let's leverage what we have and maximize the value we get from that. 
Director Business Technology in Software, 10,001+ employees
There's a balance between having the technical experience and the soft skills. You can't talk your way out of everything. As you progress, it becomes critical to be able to have a conversation with a variety of stakeholders. When business teams want to spin up their own technology teams because they're not being served, that often has a lot to do with communication and other soft skills. So you need a balance of both. You have to be skilled from a technology standpoint, but you do need those soft skills to be able to communicate well. You might have the right answer, but your stakeholders don't understand that. 
Senior Executive Advisor in Software, 10,001+ employees
Young leaders should ensure that they always have business and IT alignment as part of their strategy and focus on business outcomes. A lot of people try to implement projects or technologies without understanding the difference between OKRs, KPIs and outcomes. When they're trying to articulate value, they articulate it in terms that they understand, which could be either technical or business-oriented, but they’re not related to value for the organization. Knowing how to articulate things from a value perspective, in a way that is more objective than subjective, is an essential skill that up-and-coming leaders need in the industry today.

When one of the leaders that I'm mentoring wants to pitch a product or initiative, I tell them to write a page without a single acronym or technical word. Focus on the business value, the customer, why it's important, and how it’s tied to corporate goals. It's interesting to see them struggle to refrain from using jargon and acronyms. I tell them, "I don't work in your organization, so I do not need to know what the acronym means. Explain it to me like I'm a five-year-old child: What is the value that you're creating with this initiative and why is it important?" They have to take a step back and look at it from a different perspective.
CIO in Education, 1,001 - 5,000 employees
As I see our role continue to evolve, one of the things that I've noted a lot more in myself is the necessity to sell. I always have a need, a vision or a strategy to sell. Even from a recruiting perspective, you have to sell them on the position: "I might not be able to pay you $30K over market, but here's what I can sell you if you come here."

If you told me that I had to sell for my paycheck even 10 years ago, I would have told you I was going to starve. So I've had to pivot what I do on a day-to-day basis and be more cognizant of the fact that almost everything we do as leaders requires some level of selling. The opportunity to provide that particular skill set is increasingly invaluable and that’s what I would focus on if I had that opportunity today.
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SVP in Finance (non-banking), 1,001 - 5,000 employees

I would second that as a developer who moved into operations early on in my career. When I started my own firm, I had to figure out how to drive growth in a company when I was all technical. I came from product development where I was developing code, and now I have to actually sell it. It's a very different skill that took me a while to master, and I'm still learning to some extent 12 years later. But it is an important skill set to have and if you can educate people on that early in their career, it's going to have a significant impact on their ability to achieve the height they want from a growth perspective.

CIO in Manufacturing, 1,001 - 5,000 employees

I think selling is a primary component. Even with employees, we’re selling them on why we're doing these things now. We're a manufacturing company dealing with a lot of supply chain challenges, like many others. So we have to cut back some of our programs, and on a regular basis I find myself selling my team on why it's actually a good thing that we can focus on the things we were deferring, which are causing us to accrue technical debt.


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