January 11, 2012
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This is a big subject. I think the terms [project] manager and team leader are misapplied so often, their significance is diminshed. These should be titles of honor, seriously. But often their role turns out to be that of administrator. Status reports, reconciling time reports, scheduling time off… I had a client whose Director of one group — and when did IT get so many directors? Doesn’t a $100 million movie only have one? — was too busy to meet with the project manager because she was stuffing envelopes with documentation and complimentary ball point pens!
I’m talking about leadership. I’m talking about the traits of people like George Washington, George S. Patton and Vince Lombardi. Dammit, a software project is a battle! You’re survival may depend on the outcome.
People follow a manager because they have to; they follow a leader because they want to.
Leaders inspire with their commitment to doing things well and being thorough. They know the details. They raise the bar for everyone. And I’m not just saying these are the traits you should look for in a leader, I’m saying they define leadership.
A leader is as a leader does.
But vital in our field is that they know technology. Do you think Pat Riley doesn’t know everything about basketball? Don’t fool yourself. How else can they set technical direction for the team or organization? Old, new, mundane, abstract, everything they can get their eyeballs on. Learn and love what we do. Systems are our product – know everything about yours, the competition’s. Look at what they’re cooking up in universities and the W3C.
Beware the Peter Principle