I've been doing a lot of thinking now specifically asking myself, "What does leadership look like? What does it mean to be a leader? I still don't have a ton of answers, but I have a few thoughts and something I'm doing more consistently now.
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As I start my third year with the title "Software Development Director" I look back and think about what I've done in this role that has a leadership responsibility attached to it. At the project level I've been the technical lead and architect on two of my largest projects ever, which involved a lot of decision making, discovery into tools/technology I wasn't intimately familiar with, and guiding the teams to success. I even was able to write a bit of code in there along the way. I am happy with these results, but I realize I still have a lot to grow with in regards to this role and responsibility.
I realize that there are many paths to success, and I'm still looking for them. While the orthopraxy (correctness of action) still needs a lot of crafting, I think I have a handle on the orthodoxy (correctness of belief). At the moment these are the two precepts I've been guiding my actions through.
I want to inspire others to succeed...
Software development is hard. While more and more scaffolding, tooling, and automation gets put into place, at the core what we do is knowledge work - we take inexact problems and make exact solutions. Knowing this, I try to find ways to inspire others to push through the hard bugs, get excited when the opportunity arises to envision something new, and not take themselves too seriously. When that happens I see some amazing growth happen, just like it did for me.
I want to empower others to succeed...
Keeping that inspiration alive and going can be difficult when your environment isn't conducive to making that happen. I try to find ways to empower others to succeed as well. Sometimes that means making the pitch to purchase some new software tools. Other times it means teaching / sharing about design patterns or frameworks that are available. A lot of times it means being the go between person that finds answers or raises awareness to the stakeholder so that the developers can continue to focus on their work.
One quick tip...
In the process of growing as a leader, I stumbled up on one quick tip that has served as a catalyst to these two principles. Admittedly I didn't even notice it at first until it was mentioned by one of the developers I have been mentoring and have worked with on a project:
Keep a bag of candy at your desk.
Last year I had a bag of Dove dark chocolates sitting on my desk as "headache candy". From time to time I would get a headache, and when I took some Tylenol, I would take some dark chocolate and drink some soda to help speed up the process.
Something funny happened with that bag. Somewhere along the way the bag stopped being used for headaches. Somebody might come over for a question, and ask for a chocolate as well. Then I started passing them around arbitrarily because hey, its candy and a little bit of sweets (and sugar rush) come in handy after a hard day of problem solving. Then it would spark some random conversation. Sometimes about current project issues, sometimes about software development practices, often about life in general. Bonds were formed, the team grew closer together, and everything started to level up. It was a seemingly simple thing, but it had great results. Currently I have a tub of dark chocolate covered coffee beans at my desk, we'll see what I pick up next.
How about you? Are you in some kind of leadership role? Have you thought about it? Do you have any books, tips, podcasts, something that might help me grow? If you try the candy tip let me know how it works for you! I'd love to hear about it!