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What makes a great IT Manager?

Have you ever worked for an outstanding IT manager? What traits did they possess? Do you think being successful in that position is more about the technical know-how or the people skills?

On the flip side- have you ever worked for an absolutely horrible IT manager? I want some horror stories :)
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Expert Comment

John2016-07-07 05:00 PMID: 1922729
I did not say they were the same things.

But in 5 decades I have never seen a good manager that was not also a good leader.
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Nick672016-07-07 05:09 PMID: 1922731
A good manager has to be a leader
The Venn diagram of that statement suggests that there is overlap.
I submit that there does not have to be overlap.

And in three decades I have worked for many competent managers who were not leaders.
They knew their people, and their organization, and the stuff and got things done.
They knew how to evaluate decisions, develop consensus, and follow through.
They were deeply competent at managing -- but they weren't leaders.

Leadership is rare, and does require some innate traits.
Management can be taught.
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Dan Craciun2016-07-08 10:27 PMID: 1923066
Depends on the level.

The CEO of Apple has to be both a leader and a good manager.
The shift manager at your nearest McDonalds just needs to have basic manager skills.

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Jaime Lewis2016-07-11 08:32 AMID: 1923434
My question was specifically about IT Managers
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Eric AKA Netminder2016-07-11 11:34 AMID: 1923464

Having managed in a variety of industries, including IT, there's no difference in the fundamental issue: managing isn't about being the best programmer, or even about being really great at figuring out how to maximize returns on investment (whatever the industry is), but rather about getting individuals and groups of people to accomplish a mission efficiently. In fact, you'll note that my original article (to which Netminder referred) was prompted by an article about a tech firm.

But almost every comment posted says the same thing: it's more a people thing than it is an Xs and Os thing, and those people in management who don't get that are pretty much always going to wind up being mediocre at their jobs, thereby ensuring the validity of the Peter Principle.

Unfortunately, most organizations don't hire managers based on their managerial skills (in no small part because there's no real way to quantify them, since each individual supervised by the manager is different); they're hired because they have experience at being the best programmer/cook/bookkeeper.

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Nick672016-07-11 12:55 PMID: 1923494
IT Manager is also a VERY broad descriptor.
That's anywhere from an end-user support team manager to a datacenter manager, and everything in between.
The minimum technical chops required are those that ensure you CANNOT be lied to.
Nothing destroys your credibility with your team more than the realization that the big cheese can be b.s'ed by those lower down the foodchain.  A close second is falling down on the last two important things (mean it, do it.)  An outstanding manager makes thoughtful, clearly communicated decisions, and then stands behind them.  A poor manager either fails to stand behind their decisions because they were poorly thought out, poorly communicated, or they don't have the intestinal fortitude or authority to make their decisions stick.

The substance of the organization, the team, the job and the role vary with the exact nature of the technical task, but the guts of it remain the same:  
  • do you know enough to make good decisions?
  • do you have the people skills required that no one dares lie to you?
  • do you have the people skills to form a consensus, and keep everyone on board?
  • do you have the people skills to deal with the personalities you must manage?
  • do you have the temperament to remain consistent in your decision-making?
  • do you have the authority to shape the team to your needs?
  • do you have the courage to use your authority wisely and to its limits?

Someone who can check off all those items will make a very competent manager.
If they have a temperament and the scope for leadership, they will make a great manager.
A powerless, wishy-washy, chickensh*t fool who is a bad judge of character, not so much.