My Approach to Leadership: A Study of Style

The components of style that have worked best for me.

All the points below are just variations of the central theme: a good leader's job is to encourage, support, and empower. It's really not about you at all.

A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves. - Lao Tzu

Get Out of Your Team's Way

If you don't trust each member of your team to do a great job then they shouldn't be on your team. However, if you don't live in this wonderland of superstars where every team member is the best possible version of themselves, it still remains your job to get out of their way.

Don't stand in the way of their:

  • Improvement
  • Experimentation
  • Willingness to Fail
  • Individual Expression of Greatness

In the cold light of objective measurement we all fall short from time to time. It's important to remember that all yardsticks are arbitrary, that there are many measures of greatness, and that being a great leader means allowing people to excel in their own ways.

It's Not About You

When you walk into a meeting is it important that everyone wait for you before the meeting begins? Do you feel the need to loquaciously articulate your point in the finest possible detail before anyone else can speak? Do you feel slighted if others do well in the spotlight? Well, stop it.

Our best thoughts come from others. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

If the fulfillment of your ego dominates your drive, then you're in the wrong business and leading a team is not for you. The cost of a leader who needs to feel “like a leader” all the time is failure: a team that drowns under the waves endless waves of unmet emotional need. Don't drag your team down with you. Let go of your need to feel important.

Compassion, Understanding, and Patience

There's always a (compelling) story behind every “issue.” Every bad day, every incidence of poor performance, every sub-par interaction; every failure to excel in big ways and small is the end of a long story to which you are not privy. Remember this when addressing any personnel issue, and especially when even deciding whether to address it at all. Sometimes the better part of valor is patience and silence.

I once dealt with a team member that was complaining about their workload, which, in my opinion, was very light. The work they had produced was not up to the level of quality I had come to expect from them. I had a choice: I could berate them, reminding them how lucky they were, and how easy the did, in fact, have it. Or, I could take a moment to listen. Silence has the powerful effect of eliciting conversation; simply listening quietly and thoughtfully can be the best medicine. In this case I found that they had been dealing with a recent death in the family and the ensuing stress and chaos the follows. Once the real issue was identified we could discuss it directly and openly. We simply adjusted their schedule and work expectations to accommodate their situation.

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Sebastien Taggart
Technical Program Manager

The key to everything is mastery of your frame of mind. Everything is relative.

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