I came across a great article by Alison Green called “5 secrets to managing an IT team when you’re not a technical person“. I don’t disagree with anything she said, but I think she sells it a little bit short. The leadership failures that I’ve seen in my career are rarely because the person wasn’t technical enough. If anything, too-technical leaders are a bigger problem.
I’ve known more than one technical leader who focuses too much on the technology, and not the business case for the technology. When a new shiny object comes along, they chase it, leaving projects core to the business to languish. This not only causes short-term harm, but it can lead to longer-term failures to keep up with changes.
As an industry, we often promote good technical people into management without any consideration of their management abilities. Having worked with a wide variety of managers, I can say that I much prefer the non-technical-but-good-at-management managers to the very-good-technically-but-completely-hopeless-as-managers managers. The best managers I’ve worked for have been both, but that’s not as common as one would hope.
In the meantime, all managers of technical groups should read those five secrets and understand them. The best success occurs when the business and technology are working together.