Why Technical Experts Struggle in Leadership Positions

20409954_l The Failure to Launch

Technical experts are classic high achievers, always in pursuit of outstanding performance. They possess high standards where 95% success represents 5% failure. Get inside their heads and you hear a persistent drumbeat to do better, jump higher, move faster.  This level of intrinsic motivation makes them successful as individual contributors. Without a major shift in mindset and behavior, however, technical experts will struggle as managers and leaders.


To achieve success as a leader, a technical expert needs to:

  1. Build Credibility

Why? Because credibility is the base upon which others trust you. Without trust, there is no credibility. Without credibility, there is no influence. With influence, there is no leadership.


  1. Delegate Effectively

As leaders, technical experts must jettison the mindset of individual, hands-on achievement and adopt a new way of thinking about their roles as leaders, which is to create the conditions for success for others to achieve. Effective delegation hastens this process.


  1. Build Organizational Capacity

The application of technical expertise to expanded business capability defines success, both for the individual and the organization.

No one doubts the importance of technical expertise to organizational success.  However, even in the most technical organizations, a leader’s success depends on her ability to work effectively through others, to grow the capabilities of individuals and teams, to build and utilize a knowledge of the business to drive results.  When leaders measure their success based only on technical expertise, they limit their effectiveness and diminish their impact on the organization.

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