I strongly believe that Leadership is a critical competency for successful Enterprise Solution Architects. To some, that statement may seem bold. To others, its obvious. for those that this seems bold, I hope this blog post helps explain why Enterprise Solution Architects have strong Leadership competencies. For those that this statement seems obvious, I'm simply attempting to refine this concept to bring it to a more mature level.
A bit of my background leading to thoughts on strengthening Leadership competencies as an Enterprise Solution Architect
During my career as an IT guy, I've always been laser focused on my career mission "Improve IT's business value proposition". This is my passion and it is my guiding principle for making career choices. It's worked well for me probably because there always seems to be new opportunities to explore and deliver more business value such as; exploring different software delivery models, exploring different software design processes and techniques, implementing new and exciting technologies, engineering business architecture, and scaling to enterprise-level constructs like enterprise architecture frameworks and organizational dynamics. In fact, I feel lucky to have been able to achieve so much and still be totally inspired to learn and grow more.
My career has taken me through many IT roles gaining experience as an IT software engineer, tester, business analyst, project/program manager, and solution architect. I've carried pagers while in IT operations support roles. I've spent time in sales selling software solutions and I've spent time as a consultant delivering software solutions and coaching customers and partners how to deliver software solutions. Because I've always had a hankering to make bigger, broader, enterprise-wide business value from IT, my career has led me to where I sit today, an Enterprise Solution Architect.
Enterprise Solution Architects require Leadership skills the most
I think that all Architects require Leadership competencies to some degree but one Architect type that stands out as being the most dependent on Leadership is the Enterprise Solution Architect. Because I haven't seen an attempt to articulate the Leadership abilities in the context of the Enterprise Solution Architect role, I thought I'd share my opinion of what they might be.
So, here's how I think of Leadership. Leadership is a competency and it can be decomposed in a number of ways; leadership principles, habits, values, emotional intelligence abilities, leadership imperatives, frameworks, competencies, et al. All are valid and often share the same semantic meaning but conveyed in different terms and constructs giving us lots of choices to find the one that resonates with each of us individually.
Daniel Goleman's Leadership model as the base construct
One such Leadership model that resonates with me is Daniel Goleman's Emotional Intelligence (EI) abilities organized by the domains Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness and Relationship Management. The complete list of Goleman's EI abilities with definitions are located at the end of this blog.
This is an Architect's blog post, so I created some views of the EI domain model as well as the actual model using UML notation for those who like to read models:
Relating Goleman's Leadership Competencies to the Enterprise Solution Architect
So, how does this all relate to the Enterprise Solution Architect role you say? Well, I think that this is where things get fascinating. Below is an attempt to describe how Goleman's Leadership abilities relate to the Enterprise Solution Architect role. It is very rough but my hope is to mature the thinking to the point we can manage Leadership abilities like we can with other Architect skills like I described in this blog post regarding growing Solution Architects.
It should be noted that the Enterprise Solution Architect's Leadership competencies are required or be the highest maturity achievable. The aim of this blog post is simply to describe the relationship between Leadership competencies and the Enterprise Solution Architect role.
Because Enterprise Solution Architects interact at all organization levels in the business and IT organizations, they become acutely aware where they must grow and improve in order to be more effective. The best Enterprise Solutions Architects, therefore, seek mentors and coaches, join networking clubs with a passion for self-improvement. This is one of the reasons why find themselves at networking events and sharing experiences at enterprise architecture conferences.
Enterprise Solution Architects are some of the most psychologically mature Architects an organization has. They are often "the rocks" within the most complex, high-profile IT projects a company has. They are masters of self-control for the project team and in planning teams. Their decisions carry weight both in the eyes of the business and IT and any wavering can cause ripple effects strong enough to cause doubt and ultimately shake the foundational confidence of a project.
Adaptability is a core competence of the Enterprise Solution Architect because of the diverse situations and audiences they are faced with on a daily basis.
As an example, I once led a highly complex software design discussion with highly-talented and, should I dare, 'critical' engineers involving system integration modeling of our Microsoft Online Order Management systems in the morning, sat with business leads to brainstorm licensing business logic for our to-be-released Online Products over lunch, and delivered an architectural brief to a group of Business and IT Vice Presidents on the impacts to our enterprise for our S+S company strategy all in the same day.
I just love this Leadership ability because it is often so sorely lacking in the IT industry, thus representing a great opportunity to apply focus and get huge improvements. Engineers often don't have the training or basic social skills to have a positive dialogue. All the more reason why the Enterprise Solution Architect has very mature empathy abilities so as to resonate and get decisions made to rapidly enable change. I can't put it better than Jack Welch's "Three S" approach to Leadership; Self-Confidence, Simple, Speed. I've created a conceptual model of the "Three Ss" concepts and added a couple of new one's taken from anecdotal mentions from Goleman for another View to help describe the concepts.
Here's how to relate Empathy to the Three Ss concept. Through Empathy, an Enterprise Solution Architect can identify a Simple message that resonates with others allowing them to act on the message with speed.
Enterprise Solution Architects often find themselves in organizations that lack fluid understanding for involving enterprise-wide concerns. This is common and natural. For example, large companies often have several business strategies that are not in-sync eventuating in siloed supporting IT systems. Enterprise Solution Architects must be able to understand who to influence in order to contribute due diligence efforts for deliver solutions to enterprise concerns such as application rationalization, delivery of shared enterprise software platforms, software platform designs built for flexibility, reusability and availability.
Now, I would like to make a distinction between Organizational awareness from a Machiavellian politician who studies organizational dynamics and manipulates and drives their self-interests. Like Goleman, Stephen Covey and Jack Welch note often, "those individuals are a bore and bring down organizations." I'm in complete agreement.
Just some closing notes
There is nothing new described in this blog other than an attempt to articulate a relationship between two concepts. It is my interpretation of the fantastic work already delivered by Leadership thought-leaders in the context of the Enterprise Solution Architect role.
Acknowledgements: One of the great pleasures from working at Microsoft is the opportunity to work with unbelievably talented people. One such person is Harry Tucker and a few others whom I'm not sure I have the right to publicly identify...Jeremy, Mike, Chad and Gray. ;) Anyway, much of what I've written below was directly triggered by their coaching and I'm very grateful to have crossed paths with these individuals.
Here are Daniel Goleman's Leadership Competencies:
This is an incredible blog. I think you should write a book based on this - it would be a powerful read for other architects.
As for the acknowledgement, you humble me with your compliment. It is I who am priveleged to have worked with brilliant and passionate people such as yourself. I learned much from you during our time together at the big M.
Take care and best wishes for continued inspirational success.
Gabriel Morgan really hit the ball out of the park with his post on Enterprise Solution Architects and
Great blog on the 'softer' side of an architect's skills! This is exactly what I meant for personal skills in our discussion, about technical, process and personal skills.
Do write a book or whitepaper and show everybody we're not only about bits and bytes.
Great blog that captures the Leadership attributes and characteristics of an architect!
If you look at the other side of the performance equation, "softer" skills are as important as technical/tactical skills especially for Enterprise Architects and Enterprise Solution Architects.
Great article, I looked for your e-mail address but could not find it. I wanted to let you know the text in your tables is cutting off in ie 7,8 and ff, chrome. I actually had to view the source to read the entire article :)
Thanks for your kind comment.
Regarding the table being cutt-off, hmmm, I use Live Writer to edit and publish blog posts and didn't see an option to play with the HTML table format. Rather than viewing source code, however, you should be able to view the text if you expand the window's width.
We were discussing that with my manager today. Is difficult for him to have proper architects and is difficult for people to build up soft skills in this area. I also strongly believe that the code is the design, in terms that a real high profile architect is able to tune his radio on different channels and detail levels and also do/initiate the job in the different channels.
Thanks for sharing this great article. This arcticle is quite inspiring to help someone like me to take courage from a Solution Architect to be an Enterprise Architect on how to mentally prepare the mindset and skillset required to take there.