Be a good Leader not a Boss

What makes a good leader

Lack of good leaders is a common problem for many IT organizations. Moreover, many companies which hire top managers don’t seem to really differ good leaders from the bad ones.

We need more responsible and effective leadership nowadays…

Manager has to lead their team…

Why educated and expensive manager/team leader doesn’t bring the desired result to the company”

You can find those and many other similar phrases when you read about management. Precisely about management in Custom Software Development market sector.

As a result of bad leadership, there are a lot of a teams of talented and mind-forwarded Developers, lost in their tasks, who don’t work consistently and don’t deliver results. Because they are not lead. Not guided.

Can this be fixed? Or even more important question – can this disarray in the process be prevented and avoided?

Below in this post, we are going to discuss how to become an effective team leader and how to avoid mistakes from the start.

I want to be a good leader

Probably many of you have been already thinking about becoming a leader of your team or organization.  I assume that some of you have even already tried to become one.

Apparently, there are people around you who occupy leaders positions but are constantly failing in it. They don’t have a vision, they don’t inspire teams or motivate them. And what is worse, they don’t create any sustainable value.

What does it really mean to be a good leader?

First of all, you can’t be a leader without a team. The notion “leader” itself foresees that you need a team of people whom you are going to lead. The problem is that you can’t force someone to follow you. Having a position like “Tech Leader”, “QA Leader”, “Team Leader” etc.  will not make you a team leader at any sense. The leader is not a job position or role. The good leader is… (What?/Who? We will finish this phrase below).

Fortunately, there is a proven way to become a leader – “just” lead others in whatever you are doing together.

Learn from others and analyze everything

A few days ago I have been coaching one of my Clients who found herself new in a Scrum Master role. Our task was to find the best way of leading her team and adopting Agile and Scrum methodologies.

Firstly, I asked her if she has already met someone who was a great leader. Then we have done a short exercise – we took a piece of paper and draw two columns for pros and cons.

Next, we put everything characterizing the chosen good leader in pros column (what he usually told to his team-members, how he behaved in some particular situations or how he would behave in a current situation of my Client’s team).

Then we repeated this action with the cons column describing a bad leader example that was known to my Client.

Importance of this particular exercise was to recollect in my Client’s mind the picture of a real person and real situations that she has been into. Discussing some abstract leadership features wouldn’t work so well in the practical appliance.

Having this good/bad leader’s features list I have asked the Client to estimate herself on a scale from 1-5 on every single feature provided in our list.

To understand how it works I will give you an example – one of features at the good leader list was: “He believes in every team member and he is supporting them by manifesting it”. So the question was: “Does she believe in her team members?” and “How often and how convincing she manifests it?”. An answer to that simple question verified her strengths and weaknesses as a leader.

Next, I have asked her to chose three good leader features which she thinks are most crucial and needs to be improved in her behavior. The same we have done with features of a bad leader (features that should be removed). And I must warn you that finding and admitting a bad leader’s habits in your day to day behavior is not easy.

The final step in our exercise was to create a so called personal “Leadership Development” plan. We have written down step by step what my Client should do to implement improvements in a real daily work with her team.

The good leader is…

Based on our exercise there are few commandments distincting a great leader out of masses:

  • leader is fluent but flexible
  • leader is a good listener
  • leader is constantly learning from others (including his employees)
  • leader is a team player not a “king of the hill”

and finally

  • place a leader into any environment and his presence will be quickly recognized. Leaders produce results.

But remember that for you and in your context “Leader” could mean something totally different.

Excersise useful not only for describing a good leader

Recalling real people experience and life situations is helpful not only when talking about leadership. You can use this exercise when defining the features and qualities of any team position you need to work on.

For example, at Pragmatic Coders we use it to define strong points of people who we would like to work with and to improve our own efficiency.