On being a leader and Doctor Who

Several months ago I became a team lead at work and  I’m now leading a team of five Happiness Engineers. Last week I started a pilot coaching program to become a more effective leader. It’s like having my own personal coach. In fact that’s exactly what it is. The whole program is giving me warm fuzzies. It tells me that my employer cares about me. It makes me feel valued and that’s worth gold. Automattic is a good company to work for and we’re hiring.

What makes a good leader? Have I got it in me to be a good leader? As part of the program I completed some questions, one of which is this:

In 4 months, I want the following to be true:

I am an effective leader. I combine compassion, candour, and direction and my team produces results.  

Compassion, candour, and direction. These are the qualities I think leaders should have. When I say “direction” I don’t necessarily mean the leader decides where to go. They may have their hands on the wheel but they’re not necessarily the one reading the map or holding the compass. Everyone in a team is part of the decision-making process.

I want to share this because the reflection is useful, I may learn something from any comments I get, and it will be interesting to look back on my growth in 4 months, 6 months, 12 months and so on.

What qualities do you think make a good leader ?

On other matters, the kids are completely obsessed with Doctor Who, even drawing pictures of the Tardis and Daleks and Oods in free time at school. Last night we watched an episode which had the Daleks fighting the Cybermen and Daniel and Elizabeth thought all their Christmases had come at once. The Daleks are so funny. Their voice! It’s so shrill and grating. Exterminate! Exterminate!

17 thoughts on “On being a leader and Doctor Who

  1. I did a management course years ago, which involved a number of exercises – typical team building type things. In the review at the end the woman running the course went around the room asking what role people thought they had played. I spent most of my time making sure my team had everything they needed, and that everybody knew what they were doing. I thought I was support. Turns out I was being a manager…

    I looked at the Automattic Happiness Engineer programme a couple of years ago as an alternative to what I do now (I’m a software and web dev – I’ve built WordPress themes from scratch in the past) – I think the only think that would stop me doing it is the risk that they can just cut you off at the end of the trial, regardless of your numbers.

    1. Oh that sounds like a really fun activity. Was it a good course?

      It’s true that you’ve got to make it through trial to get the job but you can do it at the same time as your current job so you don’t have to quit and risk being unemployed. Some people also time it with their annual leave. It’s useful for the person doing trial also in the sense that you get to see whether it’s something you want to do. Remote work isn’t for everyone.

      1. My abiding memory of the course was a typical team building exercise to build something out of rudimentary materials (paper, paperclips, tape, etc) – with costs associated with each item. We had to carry an egg on a bridge. The span of the bridge dictated the score. We broke all records with our design – holding one egg right next to the chair the bridge was anchored to, and about 4 metres of strips of newspaper, which just about supported their own weight, sewn together with pins instead of tape, because tape was expensive 🙂

        Maybe I will have a think about Automattic again. I’ve been using their platform for years on-and-off – it would be nice to give something back, and to be a part of something bigger than the small company I work for.

  2. I would like to see myself as a leader in the sense that everyone is a leader without title. However, I don’t want to be responsible, at least at this stage, for others results. In that sense, I am trying to be the best team player I can be and contribute to the team goals 🙂

  3. It’s about winning hearts and minds to achieve a common purpose.. you manage resources but lead people. I work as a facilitator for a leadership development (note I didn’t say training) company and their thoughts make sense to me

    1. Very nice! Thanks, Ian. I had to read this sentence a few times “…winning hearts and minds to achieve a common purpose.” On the first read I didn’t like it much. I think it’s the word “winning” that I don’t like but that aside, it’s a nice way to phrase it.

      1. Good point, the concept behind it is concerning whether you are engaging at a purely intellectual level.. a purely emotional level or through both. The power of winning both of these can be enormous.. having both someone’s passion and someone’s brain onside. I think winning is good.. it does come from the special forces world but I’m competitive so like the word anyway

  4. I used to run courses for leading, using the outdoors, as well as courses for leaders in various outdoor activities. As part of the former I used to visit the teams in their workplace and try to understand how all members of the team felt and operated in their work environment. I think in all the organisations I worked with the number one problem was communication. Without communication both ways it seems to me that progress will be hampered. I could go on, but enough except: I always asked all members of the team to come up with one thing they would change for the better for the team, write it down and go away with it to act on.

      1. A whole variety, on one course we asked the group to form a rescue team and set up a variety of scenarios, such as a person collapsed in a tent, a capsized canoeist in a shallow canal etc., as a lot of communication was by radio this had to be catered for (and highlighted relevant issues), the team had to work out their strengths & weaknesses and draw up a set of rules for possibilities. All of the results were referred back to work practise. The group went on to rejig their whole work practise, engagement with offsite workers and feedback was superb with some members progressing to high flying jobs. One of the participants, who became a director of education, told me years after it was the best course he had ever been on.

        Others were less ambitious with a full gamut of activities, but none of them calling on specialised knowledge. What was important for me was studying the various ideas, theories and studies of team management and reflecting on practise. Then using this to feed into the next one.

  5. Definitely an interesting article. As someone also looking to expand leadership skills, I enjoyed reading and definitely agree with a lot of what you said about leaders and leadership skills

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