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Software Developer, Mentor, Architect and UX/UI craftsman. Also, a psychology nut that loves curling. Zac is a DZone MVB and is not an employee of DZone and has posted 66 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

Leadership in Software Development

05.17.2013
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Leadership within the software development industry can be a tricky area. All teams require some level of leadership. Promoting members within a team or organization is a practical choice, but skills so highly sought after in development don't always translate into good leadership. Developers are very logical and analytical. In the world of DiSC, which is a behavior assessment tool, most programmers fall into the D (Dominance) or C (Conscientiousness) categories. These individuals are direct, accurate, and task oriented. Although these traits might seem appropriate there are many other facets to leadership. Unfortunately, most individuals are thrust into leadership roles with little experience or guidance. Regardless of the situation, members in leadership roles must take the responsibility seriously. Leadership is a continuous journey of learning, teaching, and growing. Knowing this, how does one gain those abilities?

There are a few standard answers to this question. First, everyone receives the opportunity to learn on the job. Although this method works, the road can be difficult to navigate without a map. Second, ask for book recommendations about leadership. Everyone has at least one favorite they can recommend. Third, find a good mentor. Having a proper mentor is an invaluable resource. Don't be afraid to ask individuals if they have time to sit and talk about leadership. Most don't realize the accommodating nature of mentors. Sometimes they forget that those individuals were once in their shoes.

The last option is the most difficult to achieve because good mentors are hard to find, but there are other avenues. Recently, Chick-fil-A® held their annual Leadercast conference. This one-day event tackles leadership through the knowledge and experience of industry experts and seasoned veterans. One can travel to the actual event or view it at a simulcasted location. The 2013 event featured Jack Welch, Andy Stanley, Coach Mike Krzyzewski, John C. Maxwell, Dr. Henry Cloud, LCDR Rorke Denver, Gold Metal Olympian Sanya Richards-Ross, David Allen, and Condoleezza Rice. The sessions were a rich combination of presentation and interviews. Events like this create a sponging effect where years of knowledge and insight are soaked up. Documentation of each session becomes vital to encourage the flow of information, but still allows time for reflection and maturation. Below are a few highlights from the 2013 event:

"The key in complexity is to see simplicity."
Some also refer to the quote: "Complexity is simplicity done well." These simple references highlight the importance of finding simplicity in each task required.

"You don't need to be the smartest person in the room."
This is an important reminder for leaders. One doesn't need to answer all the questions or always have the best idea. Empower others to make decisions and utilize the outstanding skills of each team member.

"Yesterday is gone... let go of yesterday."
This is a reminder to not let the sins of the past control the future. Mistakes are only bad if they are not used as a tool for learning. Keep a consistent eye on the future.

"Get it out of your head."
Develop a system to keep track of things. This system must be outside of the brain in a notepad or task list. If left in the brain, one will spend either too much time or not enough on each task. The brain excels at tackling one item at a time.

"If everything is important, then nothing is important."
Leaders usually have an overflowing plate of tasks and responsibilities. It's important to have a narrowed focus, while inhibiting everything else. This applies to the team's progress as well.

"Rules don't lead."
Don't attempt to build and enforce rules. Work with teams to devise standards that everyone will hold themselves too. Rules are meant to be broken; standards are meant be exceeded.
Published at DZone with permission of Zac Gery, author and DZone MVB. (source)

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