Software Engineering, Project Management, and Effectiveness
I have a very special guest post about leadership and how to build a team of leaders. It’s by Bob and Gregg Vanourek, the authors of Triple Crown Leadership.
It’s special because it reminds me of the leadership culture we created in the early days of the Microsoft patterns & practices team – where everybody was expected to demonstrate leadership. Everybody up and down the chain was expected to influence without authority, drive for results, be accountable, take ownership of issues, strive for excellence, etc. It was a culture of empowerment, excellence, and growth.
This management philosophy, where everybody is a leader, created a culture of learning and execution that I just hadn’t seen, heard of, or experienced anywhere else before that. To put wood behind the arrow, management significantly invested in each of the members of the team, up and down the chain, so that they could operate and be effective as individual leaders, regardless of their position. As individual leaders, they could lead themselves with skill, as well as influence across organizational boundaries more effectively. The impact was a high-performing team of federated leaders that shared common values, while driving the mission and vision, and embracing the operating principles of the culture at large.
Our training included learning how to influence without authority, how to ask precise question and give precise answers (especially when dealing with executives), how to have crucial conversations, and how to manage crucial confrontations. Our training also included balancing connection and conviction, and knowing how to better relate with conflicting interpersonal communication styles. People learned rapidly from each other and accelerated each other’s growth. People also had deep respect for each other because the leadership skills shined through. People were skilled at looking at the bigger picture and focusing on the tactics within the strategies to realize the future and take bold action.
The “team of leaders” is a powerful concept. I would say it’s actually transformational. One way to grow a group is to decide that there is a leader, and of course, behind the leader are followers. If you’re a follower, even a good one, you aren’t necessarily expected to demonstrate strong leadership skills. After all, you have a leader for that. If on the other hand, everyone is a leader, then everyone is expected to bring out their best. You now have a team of forward looking, fully engaged, people asking better questions, and using influence, not coercion, to get things done. The motivational philosophy that drives the team is to win the heart, and the mind follows … so you now have an inspired band of leaders, ready to take on big challenges, and make things happen.
You get what you expect. You can choose to set the stage of whether to lead a team of leaders, or lead a band of followers. In today’s hyper-competitive world, I think you set yourself up for success when you leverage the full capacity of what your teams and people are capable of.
I forgot just how important this little idea was until I was reading the guest post. It’s a great example of how little things like attitudes and beliefs, truly shape the reality in ways that become self-fulfilling.