i am a marine, husband, father, brother, son… i exercise leadership on a daily basis. deliberate and intentional leadership building and execution is not the norm for many organizations i’ve been a part of. most expect it to occur because it’s something you “have” or obtain by proximity. managers are expected to be great leaders because of title. leadership has been decomposed into specialized definitions for use in specific scenarios. seems an insurmountable set of obstacles. i’ll agree that there are different kinds of leaders and leadership styles that are more appropriate and effective given the individual and context. this is especially true in agile development teams.
the position of leadership is typically described as someone forging the way, as an ability to influence a group toward a goal. this has been interpreted as either being able to keep ahead of or setting the pace for the masses. i suspect many have experienced this form of leadership. most may even agree that this works. my experience is this is temporary, inconsistent, and accidental. here are a few principles i keep in mind as i hone my leadership capabilities. these have been in practice for many years by many great leaders.
marine corps leadership principles: (slightly modified)
- know yourself and seek improvement: everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. know what yours are. exploit your strengths and improve your weaknesses.
- be technically and tactically proficient: before you take on the task of leading, know or have experience in the domain you expect to lead. respect is the reward for competence.
- know your team and look out for their welfare: this is important. know your members. create a safe environment for both failure and success.
- keep your team informed: communication is key. provide enough information to do their job intelligently and to inspire their initiative, enthusiasm, loyalty, and convictions.
- set the example: set the standard for conduct by personal example. if your standards are high, expect the same from your team.
- ensure the task is understood, supervised, and accomplished: this goes back to communication, creating a safe environment, and setting the example. be clear and concise, speak to your team, not at them. allow your team to utilize their own techniques at times, while actively supervising.
- train your team as a team: teamwork is the key to success. insist on teamwork. train, play, and operate as a team. ensure each member knows his/her role and responsibility within the team framework.
- make sound and timely decisions: you should be able to evaluate, estimate, and make sound decisions based on your experience. this inspires confidence in the team. once you make a decision, stick with it, until you discover it’s the wrong one. then don’t hesitate to revise the decision.
- develop a sense of responsibility among your team: members that accept tasks and are given the authority required to accomplish the task builds trust among the team. trust demands responsibility toward the team goals. this becomes a self-feeding mechanism for high performance.
- employ your team in accordance with its capabilities: seek out challenging tasks for your team, but ensure your team is capable and prepared to successfully complete the tasks.
- seek responsibility and take responsibility for your actions: actively seek out challenging opportunities. own the opportunities you are given, including everything your team does or fails to do. never allow another member to own failure due to your mistake.