I recently read that the mark of a great leader is either ability to understand and think like everyone in their team. I couldn't agree more. Many of us, and I count myself amongst them, become managerial because we have excelled as product people. In my experience there is a distinct difference between producers and leaders. That is not to say that a good producer cannot become a good manager and leader, but organisations need to realise that someone who has spent a career focusing on and creating products, whether technology solutions to business process problems is not necessarily cut out to be a great leader. Why? Well they have spent the majority of their working hours applying problem solving or creativity to issues and topics to deliver responses. People, despite what some say, cannot be treated as processes that a problem solving ethos can be applied to.
So it’s necessary for those of us that are producers to understand this, but also for teams we manage to understand this and also for our organisations to nurture and support the metamorphosis of a producers into a producer-leader.
Although a C-level position is the topmost rung on the career ladder, that doesn't negate the need for support. That support mechanism is more important than ever, if the organisation are to respond to the digital challenge, it needs a CIO that can remain in-touch with that creative producer skill to disrupt and challenge the organisation and not be bogged down with managerial tasks. Equally, the pace of today's business environment and the move towards iterative development cycles other large projects means the CIO has to provide greater levels of support to their teams and suppliers than their predecessors did. If this leadership element is not native to them, then teams and organisations must provide that essential foundation for success.
Technology is placing the producer at the core of the organisation and at the head of the challenges being faced. Yet these same issues require strong leadership. Knowing and admitting whether you are a producer or a manager is critical, but as with so many of the courses we have to navigate in our careers today, none of us can be one or the other, we must all learn elements of producer or manager and our organisations must support us in mapping that journey.