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Are Technical Skills More Important than Leadership Qualities?

Scott Gerber
Scott Gerber

Your prior knowledge and point of view can both play a large role in how you run a business. With that in mind, what should we be teaching the next generation of leaders and business owners? Fourteen entrepreneurs from Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) weigh in on what's more important for enterprising teens to learn in school- technical skills like coding, or leadership like delegation.

1. Technical Skills

The difference between coding and leadership is that one can be effectively taught in a classroom and the other cannot. A student who leaves school with a strong coding background will have a ton of real work to prove her expertise. Compare that with an A in "Business Leadership" -- no employer is going to know what that means. - John Rood, Next Step Test Preparation

2. Technical Skills

Entrepreneurial teens can teach themselves leadership skills through reading and then applying those lessons in real life scenarios. Technical skills are more easily learned in an educational environment. - Shane Adams, Sagacious Consultants

3. Both

There is no one-size-fits-all here. Some people are great techies, and others are great leaders. Most businesses thrive under the leadership of multiple leaders who have different skillsets. Think CTO versus CEO -- usually two very different personality types. - Laura Land, Accessory Export, LLC

4. Technical Skills

The young entrepreneur with technical skills has a deeper understanding of what is and is not possible to do with technology in set periods of time and can better relate to future technical and product staff. If you have an already entrepreneurial teen, then she probably already possesses some of what it takes to be a leader, and those skills can be nurtured outside of school. - Xenios Thrasyvoulou, PeoplePerHour

5. Technical Skills

Technical skills give you a base and the confidence to be an expert in the long term (Tweet This!). Being the expert makes it difficult to delegate because you have to accept that your employees may or may not do it better than you. Leadership qualities are difficult to teach and incredibly subjective. I would be afraid if most of the professors I had in business school taught me leadership skills. - Marjorie Adams, AQB

6. Leadership Skills

While technical skills are nice, they're not essential for one to be an entrepreneur. Leadership skills, however, are paramount for success. As an entrepreneur, it's less important to know how to do everything and much more important to know how to outsource everything you can't do! - Alexis Wolfer,

7. Leadership Skills

I absolutely think that entrepreneurs should focus on non-technical aspects over technical ones. Technical experts can oftentimes make terrible entrepreneurs because they love doing the work so much that they are unwilling or unable to step out of the expert role in order to spend their energies running and growing their businesses. - Chris Cancialosi, GothamCulture

8. Neither

Two keys for entrepreneurial teens should be how to effectively communicate and how to comprehend information they encounter efficiently. With those two skills, it becomes much easier to learn technical and leadership skills. When you can teach yourself coding from an online course, you can learn anything. When you can communicate clearly, you can delegate enough to start getting experience. - Thursday Bram, Hyper Modern Consulting

9. Technical Skills

There's a massive shortage of technical talent in the U.S. software industry, and the recruiting landscape is extremely competitive (Tweet This!). If you have an idea that you want to bring to life that involves any amount of code, chances are you're going to be the only one you can find to write it. The upside of this is that if your company fails, you'll definitely be able to get a job. - Robert J. Moore, RJMetrics

10. Leadership Skills

Leadership skills are more foundational than technical skills, but don't underestimate the importance of either. Teenagers may have many years to develop leadership skills, and they'll need to have technical abilities to do what they need to do. But ultimately, if a teenager wants to build something and bring others into that, she needs leadership skills as much or more than the technical ones. - Michael Seiman, CPXi

11. Technical Skills

Leadership is a key factor in what makes someone entrepreneurial. If these are entrepreneurial teens that we're talking about and not just general students, then they already possess that leadership quality. Technical skills are a more important skill for them to learn. If you are trying to inspire students to become entrepreneurial, then that is a totally different story. - Juliette Brindak, Miss O and Friends

12. Leadership Skills

Personally, I would hands-down back leadership skills over technical. Why? Because if you can lead a team, you can always lead (and pay) for someone to look after the technical. I was 16 when starting my first business, and I had no technical knowledge. Learning how to lead a team, solve problems and delegate at a young age is what I believe resulted in me managing a team of 85 at age 24. - Jürgen Himmelmann, The Global Work & Travel Co.

13. Technical Skills

Technical skills are the most important things to learn in your early years. Leadership is something you will have the opportunity to practice your whole life. What's made me an effective CEO is that I can do the more technical work, but I'm also able to climb out of the weeds and see the bigger picture. You'll ultimately get more respect as a leader if you understand the roles at your company (Tweet This!). - Katrina Lake, Stitch Fix

14. Both

Different personality types are often drawn to different professions. Yes, interest can be learned, but there's something to be said for assessing both business and technical playing fields. It's important for teens to have a basic foundation in both, allowing them to choose which route they pursue as an adult. This allows them to relate better with future colleagues who chose the other route. - Heidi Allstop, Spill

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Scott Gerber
Scott Gerber Member
Scott Gerber is the founder of Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses. Gerber is also a serial entrepreneur, regular TV commentator and author of the book Never Get a “Real” Job.