Engineering leaders: Becoming the leader you want to follow
If you are in a position of power at your company, be a leader people want to follow and one that you would follow.
It is easy to lose sight on how we got to where we are today, to move forward without ever reflecting what actions contributed to our success and which ones slowed us and others down. The types of problems that are ours to solve change as we advance in our career. We need to accept feedback and truly seek to understand if we are growing with our title, or if our title is growing despite us.
These are the expectations I believe are required to be a productive leader in software engineering:
Create a diverse team that values inclusion and a psychologically safe environment. This is your scaffolding to create a team that feels comfortable taking risks and being vulnerable. Healthy software teams are not homogeneous, they have people with different backgrounds, experiences and personas that build into a cohesive team that can determine the best solutions to meet the companies goals. Engineers are dreamers, that have the ability to materialize those dreams in code, you have to provide the canvas.
Once you have an environment with a skilled team that feels safe, they need clarity and a vision. Providing a what without a why diminishes the value of the diverse and inclusive team you are building. Understanding what their responsibilities are, what success looks like, and why allows them to fight imposter syndrome and truly value what they are accomplishing. If you provide the what, and why you should add guide rails but empower them to make the decisions on how, and support them as necessary.
Our team is now poised for success, but what else do they need from us?
Consistency, empowerment, delegation, accountability, and opportunity. As a leader you must be consistent, if a team member comes to you they should always know how you will respond. They need to feel empowered to solve problems from both your words and actions. Delegate the solutions to them but ensure you have a plan for accountability. It may feel easier in the moment to skip the step of accountability, but others notice, and lack of accountability can create animosity. A tool I use is to ask the team member to provide me a date…