Technical leader vs Effective leader

Nowadays, we can observe many people trying to be technical leaders. Many companies provide this path to recognize their employees in technical terms and maintain a shared sense of building an IT career.

I genuinely believe in people’s technical ability to lead teams because I believe in leadership by example, where the leader will get his hands dirty together with his followers. I don’t think that leadership is only about the technical point of view because it means that the relationship between the parties will be just one person knowing more than the others and giving technical solutions instead of working on the team with maturity and self-management.

The employee’s technical development should run naturally in the veins of the company culture. The technical leader is a reference to the team. Therefore it requires some soft skills in order to have an effective impact. Of course, the technical knowledge shouldn’t be put aside and it should be in constant improvement. This way, the leader will have the ability to act as a multiplier, helping to develop his followers.

This article is about my vision of being an effective leader. Also, I’m sharing some experiences from the past few years of hard work. If you want to be a leader, think carefully before starting this journey because there is a lot of hard work to do.

First of all, the leader must know himself, know his strengths, know his weakness, and have his values well defined. This process of acquiring self-knowledge is essential to become a good leader. Otherwise, the leader will hardly succeed.

Imagine a scenario where a leader doesn’t handle well when he receives negative feedback, and his team starts to bring a lot of suggestions for improvements. Probably, he will be uncomfortable with the situation and could have bad behavior saying to the team that they are wrong. On the other hand, if the leader knows his weakness, he could take advantage of the situation and see it as an opportunity to improve himself.

Lack of self-knowledge can lead the leader to failure very quickly because he will make many wrong decisions based on his judgment. Unless he starts to accept his weakness, that will happen for sure.

I bring just one example of many situations that I experienced when I was working with poor leaders. There is a lot of people doing wrong things out there. The main mistake in most cases is when the leader focuses on himself instead of focusing on others’ needs. Note that I spoke the word “need”; this means that the leader must identify what people need and not what they want. These are two totally different things.

To avoid a lack of self-knowledge, here is a shortlist to help you:

  • Ask yourself: ask yourself what is good for you? What do you like? What are your desires? What do you need to improve? What makes you strong and what weakens you?
  • Learn to say no: For fear of being alone or disappointing others, sometimes people do not develop the ability to say no. Being kind is a quality, but don’t let that negate your own desires and hurt you.
  • Explore new experiences: Try to leave the comfort zone and promote the development of self-knowledge. When dealing with something new, you will understand whether you like it or not and how to deal with changes.
  • Open to change of opinion: Opening up to new points of view and changing when necessary does not mean lacking in personality, but it is a sign of maturity.
  • Being offline for a while: Relax, read a good book, do exercise, go out with friends, or watch that series you love. Keep away from checking emails, calls, or work chats.

Leadership is character. Character is the choice we make when deciding to behave one way or the other in everyday situations. When you go beyond the limits of a leader’s character, people’s relationship weakens, and credibility will be over.

When deciding to have a leadership position, the first thing to do is check if the company’s values are similar to your values. Otherwise, this will not work. There is no point in insisting because the company’s values exist due to the people who built them.

Some time ago, I was in a leadership position working for another company; I truly believed the company invested in recognizing its employees. It is a value that I care about very much till now. So, during my career at that company, I had a lot of work to do and had success changing many things inside the company, where I provided a better environment for the people. Consequently, we provided better results for the company. After a long time adjusting things, we finally did! We achieved the company goals! The company received a bonus($) from an important customer at the end of the year. Everyone was super happy because our company was recognized for the work done. So, I immediately thought the company would share a part of the bonus with every person, and it would be a wise approach. Or maybe a celebration party to demonstrate a little recognition for the effort. Or any action would be enough to keep people motivated, and it doesn’t need to be only about money.

To my surprise, the company decided not to share the bonus and didn’t do absolutely anything. I was astonished by this attitude, so it was at this very moment that I realized that the company’s values were different from mine. After some time, I decided to leave this company because I knew there was no way to change it.

Character is the key to effective leadership. Anything else that we read on books, sites, videos, etc., are consequences arising from character. I can mention other items like justice, impartiality, courage, honesty, humanity, integrity, balance, etc. All those are very important too! Don’t get me wrong, but they are not the strongest in terms of creating a strong bond between people; the leader’s character does that at the end of the day.

I’m bringing a few tips for this article that I believe are the most important right now.

Born leader

First of all, the leader is not born a leader; he becomes a leader. Leadership is training, needs to be practiced every day. I heard it once ‘this guy was born to be a leader!’. I disagree about this affirmative, I believe some people learn faster than others. Besides that, when we are born, we are an open book that will be written during our growth and based on situations that we will face every time. This history plus a lot of dedication to studies may determine that today one person is better able to be a leader than the other.

Listen carefully

When I say listen carefully, I mean the leader must listen effectively to what the other person is saying without creating pre-judgments or creating solutions to solve it quickly. You must listen and pay attention to the words used, the person’s expressions, tone of voice, etc. After the person finishes talking, then the leader should give his answer or guidance. While we are listening to someone, it does not mean that we agree with what they are talking about; the important thing here is to try to truly understand the point of view that the person is bringing. The result of this behavior of the leader will make the person feel heard, and he will believe the leader cares about him and is open to conversations to solve his problems.

Servant leader

A servant leader values ideas, contributions and regularly seeks opinions from his co-workers, establishing a culture of trust and respect. The leader cares about helping others, whether on issues related to life or work. Under no circumstances does he use his position to show that he is in charge, does not think he is superior to others, and acts carefully, being able to calmly collect the trash or clean a table, as he has sufficient knowledge of his personality and skills.

The leader must be exacting

We are often looking for continuous personal improvement, and we can make a parallel of this with the company’s objectives that also need to have continuous improvement. In this way, the leader should help people reconcile their professional evolution with the company’s growth. I had the pleasure to work with a leader since he always gave me great feedback; he was accurate and said exactly what point was not good. There were some moments when I was a little lazy and did not do well with some tasks; my leader always managed to identify these moments, gave me feedback precisely, and then asked me to do the job again. The critical point of this experience is that accepting low standards is a way of getting a lack of commitment to our responsibilities. People need attention, which means they need to receive feedback for improvement. If this does not happen and if the tasks performed are always right, this person will not receive the necessary attention for their evolution.

Prepare to fail

It is natural for failures to occur when we put learning into practice. It’s part of the learning process, don’t worry. The failures will exist even in the most mature and developed person you know because the learning is eternal. Therefore, the leader must understand that some decision-making can bring unexpected results, so he will have to deal with this frustration and learn from the experience. Also, the leader should help others to deal with frustration when they fail.

Promote leadership

The most accurate and summarized way to know if you are a good leader is by creating another leader. It is the most expected result of the leadership’s work.

Technical people also can be excellent leaders, and sometimes it is necessary to develop new skills.

Leadership must be a composite of behavioral development, soft skills, and technical knowledge. Why should we separate these things when they are complementary? It is day by day that we identify both technical and behavioral improvements. We should avoid creating organizational structures where another sector gives the evaluation and/or feedback instead of being provided by the team leader. It would be a total lack of respect for people who are working daily looking for growth.

I see another structure working very well, for example, HR being a team providing support and training for its leaders to exercise complete and effective leadership. The investment in the leader’s development must be significant, as this is the most efficient way to scale the teams and, consequently, the company.

Originally published at https://inacioklassmann.medium.com on February 25, 2021.

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