Leadership (part 1)

I am on a quest to become a leader. I have given it more thought this year than all years before. Even though I have spent years as a software test manager, I believe that I have only scratched the surface. I appreciate your comments.

Imagine yourself working at a company that is facing a challenge. The market is not growing while the competitors are taking market share and reducing their costs. People are worried about their jobs. Your friends are worried. You are worried. If you get laid off, what is going to happen?

There is a key project that is important for the company’s survival. The project manager suddenly takes a job somewhere else leaving a void in leadership. Then the head of R&D comes to you and says “We need your leadership. Please guide this project so that it is successful.”

Of course you are flattered by the request. You wonder if you really are the best person for the job. Can you get it done and keep balance in your life? Can you bring up the morale of people so they can do their best? Can you keep management from interfering with the project and resources? Or will you fail?

Then your mind goes back to the things that you did to prepare for this role. You remember the time spent listening to others to understand the problems from their point of view. You recall the times you shared your vision of how things could be on another team, allowing everybody to see what could be. And you feel some pride when you think about how everybody worked together to get it done. You realize that whether intentional or not, you have become a leader. You accept the offer and build on your experiences from the past.

We are all on some path of leadership. Some of us want to be leaders. Others are tired of being led by dictators or phonies. Some of us want to have an impact. And some just want to keep following. There is nothing wrong with any of those desires. In fact, we have a little of each in our hearts. However, if you want a little or lot of success, which I think you are by the fact that you are reading this blog, you can prepare yourself to be a good leader.

Note: I would like to get feedback on what you think a leader is and is not. I welcome your comments.

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4 thoughts on “Leadership (part 1)

  1. Drew

    I don’t trust anyone who “wants” to be a leader. You’re either doing it or you’re not. Wanting is nothing. Doing is everything.

    Pontificating about leadership is not leading. Just lead, please. Then tell us how you do it and what works and what doesn’t. That is how you can lead leaders, imo.

    For what it’s worth, I lead by convincing people to follow, showing that the things I propose work, and relying on the reputation I build to get people to follow me. I have recently convinced people to do seemingly-crazy things but they’re willing to explore them (and even just blindly believe!) because I have some gravitas and some clout and a track record of saying things that are true regardless of the previous consensus. And making things happen regardless of the obstacles. There is no special magic. I am a leader because I lead (and others want to follow).

  2. dmcnulla Post author

    Thanks for the comment Drew. I never wanted to be a leader until I got tired of hoping other people would lead in the right direction. Actually, some people are doing that, I a kinda follow them. In my own world, I found that I have to step up to lead, and ask others to lead as well. More in part 2 and 3.

  3. Drew

    I’m not trying to knock you at all. Heck, I don’t even know you. But doing is more important than thinking about doing.

    I never wanted to be anything more than an individual-contributor tester. But I couldn’t help it. Oops. Now I’m telling dev teams what they need to do and they listen. And non-engineering teams. I chat regularly with our president and our CEO. But I’m just a test shlub. It’s interesting. Just saying . . .

    Break down what you want to figure out and I’m more than willing to give you whatever value there is from my experience. It may not be much, but it’s something.

  4. dmcnulla Post author

    I understand what you are saying. “Thinking about” sounds like sitting on the fence or something. Not with me, though. Anything I can do will be done better if I spend time thinking about it, and more if I practice at doing it. Probably because I have very little natural talent.

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