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Leading Lean Software Development is a great read and would recommend for any tech leader. There is a lot to draw from and learn but for this blog it was a quote on the last page that caught my attention:

to lead the organization as if I had no power

What an excellent mindset to have! Following the reference to the quote leads to an article Role of Management in a Lean Manufacturing Environment by Gary Convis, Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky, that includes this paragraph:

I’ll never forget the wise advice given me by a man I grew to respect and admire very deeply, Mr. Kan Higashi, who was our second president at NUMMI. When he promoted me to vice president, he said my greatest challenge would be “to lead the organization as if I had no power.” In other words, shape the organization not through the power of will or dictate, but rather through example, through coaching and through understanding and helping others to achieve their goals. This, I truly believe, is the role of management in a healthy, thriving, work environment.

Isn’t this how all leadership should be done? This is referring to leading an organization yet still applies to all types of leadership. I believe every leader must be a role model, practice what you preach! People will look at the leader’s example to reinforce expected behaviors if the leader sets a bad example it could lead to resentment in the team!

I do find it hard to imagine a leader who believes laying down authority actually produces healthy teams…I’m sure they exist though! I don’t know why the but thought of Kim Jong-un watching over a daily stand up comes to mind…scary! I find it hard to see how that leadership style will ever last – they do say, people don’t leave companies, they leave managers! Any good team members wouldn’t stand for this type of manager and find another job leaving a group of people with little incentive to work as a team.

But, just because a manager isn’t enforcing his power doesn’t mean they are leading through example and coaching. Every leader has a choice how they work with their teams and this is where the difference is with high performing, healthy teams, and ones that seem to be in a constant battle. Leaders can only have teams that thrive if the leader lives for teams, the servant leadership way. To get the best out of your teams, decisions have to be made with them and for them. Of course, there are other company/customer priorities that come into the mix which is when awareness is the first step to buy-in. Teams want to be in the loop on decisions, not an afterthought when the grapevine gets to them before the leader does!

With a mindset of having no power means you have to focus on other ways to influence people. It’s not surprising that there is no silver bullet here because everyone is different. It’s “through understanding” each person that you become aware of their goals, then the choices you make can be more educated to their benefit. I’ve covered knowing your team before. This is all part of gaining trust so you can coach your teams to achieve their goals without having to dictate along the way.

Having healthy and thriving teams is challenging to say the least so the attitude of the leader plays a vital part in the team chemistry…if not the most important part. This means there can be pressure on the leader to get this right! Having a humble approach, being open about mistakes and learning from them, and putting the team first will foster a work environment where people will want to work for each other.

I thought this Dilbert was on topic:

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