Leaders who influence versus leaders who order

In IT there is a major misconception that people should be moved/promoted to leadership positions based on their years of experience. More than a misconception, I see this to be a norm in many companies. Your role is based on years of experience in any of the big IT organizations in India.

Consider this typical example

> First 3 years you are a software developer

> Next 3 years you are a senior developer

> After 7-8 years you are a lead developer

> If you have 9 years and above, you are an architect or a manager

Really should it be this way? I personally don’t think so and I completely disagree with this. There is peer pressure, pressure from loved ones and that sets an expectation that an individual is of no good unless [s]he goes up the ladder. Rather than the ladder be one of knowledge & skills, it is one of social perceptions.

Individuals have to understand that a very good developer may never be a great lead/manager. A good story teller might never be a good director. A good athlete might not always be a good coach. So why do organizations always think of forced promotions while the individuals are not capable. I feel promotions should be based on qualities that the individual demonstrate. To be a tech lead, the person should have already demonstrated those qualities and the organization notices that and promotes him/her to fulfill a more valuable role. One who does not demonstrate should not be given that opportunity. If somebody is passionate about doing something, they would already be doing that.

Being a leader is a responsible role. It comes with a lot of responsibility of making things happen in a group. [S]he needs to motivate, consider everyone’s opinion, and influence team members to perform for one and only one cause –> success of the engagement. The process of getting to the end point should be as memorable (in a good way), as rewarding as the team could believe possible in the circumstances the project had to go through. The journey hardly will be ideal, but how best can the lead make it all worthwhile is what defines the LEADERSHIP Quality.

For a leader, the first thing to note in success is a summation of contributions made by each team member and how did the leader enable this to happen. And for contributions, people are interested in WHAT and WHY they are doing what they are doing. The leader should enable everybody to understand the big picture, where we are leading to, why something is very important and what are the effects(s) of delivering in time (for the company) or having delay in delivery (for the company and

the client). Once people understand the effects of their contribution, they get a sense of responsibility. Never would an employee be motivated when he is said what to do and by when you need him to deliver. This becomes too transactional. Even though they deliver once/twice, the motivation to deliver is literally nonexistent. The team member is interested in the value they provide and need to understand where a leader is coming from. Like the saying goes “what resonates is not what you have said, but where you’re coming from”.

To be a leader, one has to understand that the success of the organization is more important than personal motives and achievements. Their success is to enable the organization to succeed in all situations. Their achievements better be not at the cost of the other’s misery. That achievement is not worth a penny since the people in the company (and thus the organization in the long run) have suffered/would in the process that will have long term implications.

Leaders have to think beyond their personal goals, their personal comforts and utilize the collective strengths of the team to make it happen. Leaders should see a concern as an opportunity to do something good for the organization. Thinking about a problem and complaining about the same never solves it and only shows their in-capability to solve it. Leading is all about influencing positively and allowing the team to decide how things should proceed. The one who VETOS or one who cannot influence is never a leader.

Ashok Datla is the Client Principal at Compassites. He has 14 years of experience playing various roles in an IT delivery organization. He leads the software solution services pursuit, develops software solutions strategies and oversees delivery of complex engagements. Prior to joining Compassites, he has played various roles in technology and leadership front globally. He had lived in the Bay Area for over 11 years working with Pacific Stock Exchange, Wells Fargo and Stanford. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Karnataka University, India.

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