It’s a running joke in software development that as soon as someone demonstrates that he’s a good software developer, he’s promoted to management, whether he wants it or not.
In recent years, of course, many companies have addressed this to some extent, and it’s now just as common to see software leaders come from a formal Project Management background, often without having had prior experience in hands-on development. I’d argue that this still isn’t ideal, unfortunately, since this simply gives you a business-oriented leader who doesn’t understand the technical domain of his or her work.
A recent entry on The Hacker Chick Blog explores this issue, as well (Agile Leadership: Methodology Ain’t Enough). Read through this article, and consider a leader with a technical career path vs. a non-technical career path. Is it reasonable to expect someone without a proper technical background to be able to facilitate the sort of interactions Abby describes in her post?
I believe that a really effective direct manager (not a manager-of-managers) really does have to combine technical skills with business skills. One without the other, in my experience, leads to frustration and conflict.