Torbjorn Zetterlund

Fri 31 2017

Traits a software engineer need to succeed as IT leaders

by bernt & torsten

Have you ever been in the situation to hire or promote a software engineer for a management role? Have you find it is difficult, it’s not easy to find managers who motivate, lead and inspire. From my own experiences, I’m sharing some tips on how to find IT leaders outside or within an organization with successful outcomes.

Software engineers often make the best IT leaders. Software engineers are tech-savvy, forward-thinking and they have already the trust within your IT team and they know the ins-and-outs of a great culture. Start with your own ranks, when you’re looking for good IT leadership, find the right IT leader within your own ranks, will foster greater trust and engagement.

If you have the right team in place, you will attract talented people, that want to work with other talents. They know that within that environment they can learn, grow and be challenged professionally. Include software engineers in your IT leadership, will help you when there’s someone at the table who understands the technology, the methodology, the quirks of your organization and the culture. Here are some traits that you should look for in a great IT leader.

Technical skills

Ask yourself, are you up on the latest technology, skills, and trends? Do you keep your own software engineering skills sharp? Are you active in developer communities? You can always check out job descriptions to get insight into the skills companies are looking for in their senior tech management team.

Software Engineers that know their skills also know that tech qualifications still matters.


As an IT Leader, you should never let a networking opportunity pass you by. You should take a lead role in your team and network with people within the business in other departments to figure out what your needs and capabilities are. Then you can look externally to build connections, through networking events, conferences, any way to increase your industry knowledge.

Networking may not come naturally to software engineers, it’s a valuable skill to train up, as it is important to not only for landing a new job but as part of becoming an IT leader or IT Manager in your organization.

Building A-Team

Getting promoted to an IT manager role in your organization, you will be managing existing teams and maintaining and building new ones, so good management, and team-building skills are a must.

Don’t think that you delegate this task to HR and expect them to fill in gaps.

You need to develop communication both within your teams, the business and externally. Your role is to understand where team members’ strengths and weaknesses are to build on and address those.

When I managed teams, I used a depth chart similar to what sports teams use,  it helped me:

  • to know who fitted best for specific projects
  • improve skillset
  • onboarding new members

The following charts

is an example of how to track the depth of your team, there is two-axis, that is a score on a scale 0 to 10, and the total shows the depth of team members:

  • Professionalism – the professional traits being tracked
    • Client Issue Resolution – How do you get work with clients to agree on a single alternative to a difficult issue
    • Internal Issue Resolution – How do you get internal team members to agree on a single alternative to a difficult issue
    • Organization Skills – Manage time management, organizing workload, meeting management, meeting preparedness
    • Mentorship – develop a relationship with a less experienced team member
    • Self Motivation – is the ability to satisfy a desire, expectation, or goal without being influenced to do so by another person
    • Internal Influence – a power to affect internal people or internal events especially without any direct or apparent effort
    • Stress Management – the process of identifying stress factors and learning coping skills to deal with them
    • Passion – the trait of being intensely emotional
    • Focus – the concentration of attention or energy on something
    • Communication Skills – The set of skills that enables a person to convey information so that it is received and understood
    • Attitude – a complex mental state involving beliefs and feelings and values and dispositions to act in certain ways; “he had the attitude that work was fun”
    • Commitment – The trait of sincere and steadfast fixity of purpose
  • Job Skills – this tracks the skills of the organization’s products/services
    • Presentation Skills – How to define the objective of a presentation, how to outline what is to be covered, how to present
    • Project Planning – How to plan activities/tasks while on a project
    • Project Experience – Experience on working on projects, working with team members, experience from the large, medium, small projects
    • Organization product Knowledge – knowledge comprising training is taken, product knowledge, demonstration of skills
    • Organization product Knowledge – knowledge comprising training is taken, product knowledge, demonstration of skills
    • Team Work – Working on a team to collaborate, co-operatively work on a project, solve problems, negotiate, resolve conflict
    • Technical Skills – Knowledge of organization product from a technical perspective.
    • Office Tools – communication tools, collaboration tools
    • Listening Skills – The ability to listen to other people and comprehensive what they saying
    • Writing Skills – Skill in using the English language to write clearly

This is just an example, of how you can build a depth chart and building up your team. I was never afraid of having smarter people than me to work with, I knew that if I trained my team well.

I would get a few years with them before they become managers either in the same organization or another organization. If you think about it, I was building a network of skilled people, that I could one day take advantage of, myself moving to another job.

I would never object to work for someone that once had worked for me, as I knew that I gave them the growth while they work for me.

Finding Talent

A manager is only as good as the team they build, do not be afraid to have talents better than you, as an IT manager it’s important from a talent management standpoint to constantly know what new technologies out there, what skills and experience are hot, make sure that your team gets trained accordingly.

The depth chart I mentioned in the previous section is a key tool to identify and attract other software engineers or other IT talent and with your own skills of identifying talent, I see this as a critical skill for an up-and-coming manager, as well as always network with the best and brightest.


Be honest with your team, be clear in your communication, make sure that you refine your communication skills, negotiation skills, and being able to translate business needs to IT and IT’s requirements to the business is key.

Great IT leaders are able to communicate effectively with both the business and the tech side of a company and maintain open communication channels between the two.


Understanding technology is critical to be a great IT Leader, and apply that knowledge to the organizations and the business drivers that technology needs to support in your organization. A great IT manager sees technology as an effective tool that solves business problems, not as a solution in and of itself.

If you have questions, please do not hesitate to contact me, or you could just make a comment below.