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What is leadership?

Some arbitrary thoughts about leadership

Especially after the economy started tanking, I’ve been seeing a surge of people with self-acclaimed leadership skills. Recently, I heard that in the job fairs, the queues are very long and almost 90% of the applicants say their skills are in leadership, management, coordination etc. The best part was that the recruiters didn’t even want to listen to people who are interested only in these kind of jobs.

What is good about this? Well, finally, atleast some organizations are feeling the pinch of economy and are willing to take a hard look at what exactly is the value you add to us? During the economy boom, many organizations were running around to recruit as many techies as possible. Few of them figured out what to do with all these techies, or how to keep them occupied. Solution? Hire more people to coordinate techies. Remember the movie Office Space? It is very true when the movie makes fun of a guy whose job is to take the requirements from the fax machine and has his assistant take it over to the programmers.

How many of you have seen things like this? Meetings were 5 managers sit around and give - often conflicting - business requirements to one hapless programmer. May be it is just me, but I can’t see any value in having 5 people trying to coordinate 1 person. It almost looks like if you have technical or analytical skills, you are automatically branded as having zero people skills. If you have zero analytical skills, then you are better suited for management or coordination.

How is this scenario typically justified? By airing out assumptions that people with technical skills ought to get their job done in peace, or techies have no interest in managing people. So far I’ve not seen a techie worth his/her salt saying s/he prefers being constantly shadowed by coordinators seeking status reports, rather than being able to work with people who can give guidance and decision-making support.

Usually, leadership positions are recognized as those positions needing only management or coordination skills. Wrong! Simple problem is that you can’t manage what you don’t know. This typically results in micro-management, building comfort-zones, finger pointing, vaporware and frustration of enthusiastic employees.

Back to the title, What is leadership? Here is my definition.

Leadership is when you spend 10% of your time with your staff so that your staff want to follow you 90% of their time.

For that to happen, they need to be able to trust you, look up to you as a mentor, decision maker and their supporter.

What is the exact opposite of this that can indicate that an organization has a long way to go in developing collective leadership skills?

Leadership is NOT when you spend 90% of your time with your staff so that your staff don’t follow others for even 10% of their time.

That would be micro-management, dictatorship, innovation-killer and major waste of everyone’s time.

  1. Leadership is something very few people understand or can use. I wish more IT managers could learn. I have one who is an avid learner because he almost wrecked his team and now is really turning on his people rather than off. Regards, Ben
    author shareware ebook of Leadership Skills

    Posted by: Ben Simonton on December 29, 2002 06:12 PM