Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Natural Leaders

Did I intend for this space to be used for discussions about leadership? No. However, the natural risks and pace of change that are inherent with software engineering makes leadership incredibly vital and high quality leadership hard to come by. When I came across an article written by Gary Hamel called How to Tell If You're a Natural Leader I immediately thought that it was important to share it here.

What made it most thought provoking are these paragraphs:
  • "Think about your role at work. Now assume for a moment that you no longer have any positional authority—you’re not a project leader, a department head or vice president. There’s no title on your business card and you have no direct reports. Assume further that you have no way of penalizing those who refuse to do your bidding—you can’t fire them or cut their pay. Given this, how much could you get done in your organization? How much of a leader would you be if you no longer held even a tiny, tarnished scepter of bureaucratic power?".
  • "... how much of your power comes from what you are (the VP for HR, for example), and how much comes from who you are ..."
In my mind, that's powerful stuff. Of course leadership is enhanced by title and power - perceived or otherwise. Who isn't going to follow someone, at least temporarily, who can dump your ass into the cold winter of this recession.

Yeah, Gary Hamel's article could be useful as an exercise in self-examination by existing leaders but I think a lot of that internal dialog has already happened. At most, this discussion could be a catalyst for calibrating oneself or possibly a reminder of some of those leadership principles. That's not what I find most interesting about this article.

I think this article is most useful for those that are not currently in an officially sanctioned leadership role. It's for self-examination of whether one is acting like the leader one thinks they are, or thinks they want to be, or possibly reluctant to be, or even in denial of being.

Another valuable aspect is to identify the natural leaders on your team and within your organization. Who is being followed without a title? Who on your team and organization tends to be at the center of things? Who do people go to for questions and advice? Those are the people that will build the teams for the future who are entrepreneurial, innovative, and mission oriented. You will need them because today's workforce is transient - and this is especially true in software engineering.

I recommend reading Gary Hamel's article How to Tell If You're a Natural Leader as well as subscribing to his Management 2.0 blog.

I'm interested in your thoughts.

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