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How To Turn Brilliant Coders Into Leaders From Coders to Leaders – Thorns In The Way Of Leadership Building In the Indian IT Landscape.

By Ketan Kapoor

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India's most potent problem for eons was never about brilliant coders, but about transforming them into brilliant leaders. From a rough cut deliberated by several HR professionals, only a third of the coders today are viable to groom for leadership. How then do we tap these 20-30% high impact, high potential individuals? It is an avenue with massive potential of its own for any organization, but one largely left unexplored in the Information Technology industry.

In time, it became imperative to nurture coders to move from a rigid, role or domain driven position to leadership. This would entail exposure to new challenges, and more importantly their ability to thrive in them. Surprisingly, one of the biggest roadblocks to this remains a smooth transition for the high performer coders as a departmental asset to an organizational asset.

Having said that, it is essential to understand how coders can belong more cohesively with the organization as a whole. Of course, there are several other factors to consider when it comes to roadblocks between being in a position of leadership as opposed to an individual contributor of high performance.

Expanding on everything mentioned are nine pain points that threatens a leadership crisis in the IT Talent Development Process, if not addressed carefully:

Right Progression Path

The progression cycle of an identified potential leader is unique to each individual in question and requires customization to suit those needs. Strategic projects especially are of top priority in the forward looking IT companies of today, where the measure of strengths and weaknesses goes into structuring a customized program. This prevents last minute shocks as the career plan is drafted, keeping in mind the strengths and problem areas in a granular fashion.

Measurement of Progress

How does an organization define success, or even progress for that matter? It could be project based, the achievement of overarching, long-term organizational goals, or a mix of both. This approach requires strategy and implementation by the executive brass.


Technical talent in the Information Technology industry, just as with any industry, is sparse at best. Even among them, fast tracking a coder into becoming a leader requires a crucial investment of organizational time and resources. These are prime candidates that competitors try to poach – a clear and present danger in the IT industry. The question is about how best an organization can retain their best performers and prevent turnover to prevent organizational and team distress.

Unlocking Potential in Parallel with Job Rotation

Leadership programs by design – accelerators, or they risk turning into expensive training mechanisms. Leaders must ultimately lead, and eventually your program member will crave the opportunity to do so. It is important for any organization to feed that need, even if it goes against the traditional career pathing and seniority norms in place.

Top Talent Needs Self Drive to Develop Leadership Acumen

Lack of leadership acumen can take a toll on the transformed leaders themselves. Studies on the Harvard Business Review show that only 28% of leaders said they were confident in their ability to lead within the first six months as a new leader. It is essential to create an environment for the top talent to aspire to leadership apart from their own self-drive to develop that acumen.

Graduating from IQ to EQ

There needs to be a gradual yet significant transformation from being a top individual performer to managing a team smartly; i.e. creating an environment of trust within the team, manifesting the right team spirit and environment. Essentially, a shift from mentee to mentor.

Building Social Stamina

The modern age has seen real time communication reach unbelievable heights, with newsfeeds to proctoring technology. For every leader to remain effective, it makes sense for them to stay up-to-date with respect to information. This would involve building a social stamina towards tweets, emails, and more.

Lack of Adequate Diagnostics

One of the biggest points is the lack of diagnostics when it comes to measuring an individual contributor's potential and willingness to push for leadership. Diagnostics implying the need for a system of assessments to test for those key traits that make them a top leader in that organization.


This is probably the biggest pain point among much of the new generation employees. Striking a balance between catering to intellectual thirst and economic realities is important. Simply put, it is not good enough to provide someone with either the room for high growth or merely obscenely high pay; they need to go together to draw out the best form of satisfaction from the candidate in question.

A healthy disposition of company's leadership in investing in these training programs is crucial to manage high attrition and talent progression within the organization.

Ketan Kapoor

Co-Founder and CEO, Mettl

Ketan Kapoor, one of the co-founders and CEO of Mettl, is part of a growing breed of highly qualified entrepreneurs. An IIT-IIM alumnus, he has the unusual distinction of having spent most of his career at startups. 

Ketan holds an Engineering degree from IIT- Roorkee (1997-2001) and an MBA from IIM Calcutta (2002-2004). Before co-founding Mettl, Ketan led the marketing division at Isango, helping turn the start-up into one of the world's premier sellers of tours, trips & activities. 

He was also instrumental in setting up the eco-system for India's first mobile payment & transaction platform in Indepay networks. As CEO, Ketan brings a wealth of focus, drive and energy to the Mettl team.

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