In IT Skills inventories, there is often a lot of attention given to technical skills. Programming languages, development patterns, methodologies, databases, etc. These are the skills that tend to be "resume grade" and which tend to get tracked. I think that there are a critical non-technical skills or attributes that we ought to pay attention to. more than we do. Courage, for example, is one that I think is very important, but under represented. According to dictionary.com "courage" is
the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery.
If IT is going to be an agent of change in business, then courage is a required attribute. Clearly in the ranks of IT leadership it will be needed, but I maintain that this is something that needs to flow down through the entire organization. Courage can't be the sole province of the CIO. If that's what happens, then all you get is good sounding talk. But the organization as a whole seldom follows through with it. On the flip side, if the CIO and IT leadership is not courageous, but the rank and file is, you end up with a disaster when grassroots events happen that the leadership can't support across the Business Leadership Team. Yes, Courage is a near-universal requirement of any IT organization that seeks to be a change agent. Courage to do something new or different. It's easy to sit back and do what I already know I can do. I bear very little risk of failure in this kind of a scenario. But to willingly and cheerfully do something new is risky and is something that without courage may not go over well for me. IT needs to be ready to to whatever the business needs done. Outsourcing, project management, testing, whatever it is, someone needs to muster up their courage. Courage to take risks and flirt with failure. Not every organization needs to be risk takers. Clearly the support team needs to work with tried and true processes and methods. However, there comes a time in every organization's life where I have to decide, do I want to throw my hat in the ring with the "big project we've never tried before?" If I'm an individual contributor, there is a real difference between "getting assigned (grudgingly)" and "raising my had to be a part". The latter takes courage. Courage stand up for what I know is right. When a stakeholder wants to take a shortcut that threatens the architectural integrity of the project, I need to have courage to say no, and be able to back it up. This may mean I take an unpopular stance, and refuse to compromise. How many big, important initiative are torpedoed every year because of fatal flaws that are allowed to creep into the program in the idea of "keeping the peace"? NOTE: I am not saying that I will be a complete jerk about it. There is an art of having courage AND good grace. That is by far and away the best way to go. Courage to form a vision of what could be, and sell it. I many need to sell in inside of IT. I many need to sell it all across my sphere of influence. I may need to become a technology evangelist. Sales people know all about courage, because they get told "NO" all the time. I may need to take that same risk. Being told "NO" feels pretty bad. So I have to have courage that says I'll be ok, even if people reject me. Courage to face uncertainty and the unknown. Sometimes, it's all about the journey, not the destination. And I don't know where the next step will take me. I don't know how long it will take to get somewhere meaningful. This uncertainty can be very stressful. Courage is what is displayed in the movie Jerry McGuire when Tom Cruse's character writes his manifesto "The things we think and do not say." This was Jerry McGuire's moment of courage. Setting off down a new path that was very very hard. But ultimately a journey that brought him to the place of defining himself. I'm not saying IT needs to write and distribute memos that get every one fired. But we do need to have courage to do what is needed at the time when it is needed.
â€œNever doubt that a small group of dedicated people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.â€ - Margaret Mead