Sten Vesterli's Blog

Are you a Manager or a Leader?

Basecamp lost a third of their employees after management put the foot down hard on political and diversity discussions. Coinbase got of lighter, losing only five percent when they implemented a “no politics” rule.

You might agree or disagree with the rules that management have imposed at these companies. But they do show something rare in the IT industry: Leadership.

Managers make sure that jobs are filled, projects are staffed, software is released, bugs are fixed, and time sheets are filled in. Leaders set direction for the company. Because top IT specialists are in short supply and can have a very large impact on a project or a company, they know they are valuable. That encourages them to speak their mind freely, on IT matters and other important issues on their mind. That can turn into heated political arguments, or even suppression of other opinions.

It is a leadership task to create a productive environment where each employee can make a meaningful contribution. The leader must make sure everybody gets heard, and people with unpopular opinions are not bullied. Getting that balance right is hard, and will look very different in different organizations, countries and cultures. But leadership is a necessary precondition for creating a high-performing IT organization.

As a CIO or CTO, are leading your organization or just managing it?