Lead yourself before leading a team

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Sometimes I feel that most of the leaders in our software industry are just made. In other words I can say – title was just imposed on them. They are not leaders but company or senior management imposed a title and a team on them. I have seen them working individually, and they are great in it. But when we come to the leading a team, they fails.

I was reading some books and thinking about it. I also attended some sessions on leadership and got only one reply. May be I am wrong for some people. But, I am writing this based on my experience and my readings. The reply I got was – Before leading a team, lead yourself.

If you are not leading yourself, then you will be failed. Do you know why? I have reason. At last you are also part of the team. If you are leading yourself, means you are going by the same rule, team is going by or I can say even harder rules for you. And, then your mind speaks with you.

Now, let’s assume an example — You are leading a team, in fact not leading it but only supervising it, you don’t come up with ideas but you are ordering team to do something every time, What will happen then?

Let me tell you, team will not follow your single instruction, everybody will go with their own rule and team effort will impacted .

I have worked with many leads and some of them were real leaders while some of them were kind of dictators. I feel real leaders are more effective than dictators, because Leader set an example in front of their colleagues while dictators only used to dictate them which makes team annoying. Let me give you example of two of my leads.

  • It was the year 2012, I was working as software engineer, I had to go to my home town for some important reasons. I explained the whole story with my lead. He told me to postpone my leaves as per project urgencies. I did so. After several month again same story happened. Now, for the third time when I asked for leaves after some months, the same story happened and he warned me that whosoever will go for holiday, will go on his own risk. This was not good at all and then I told — “I am going, do whatever you can?”.
  • Before two years, I was in a big organization, Project was already in its settled phase. We released the code, testing was completed on productions. Next day I was on leave because of some health issue of one of my family member. I visited to hospital and when I was leaving doctor’s cabin, my phone rang. My lead was on other side. He first asked me about my family member’s health and doctor’s prescription then he told me — “did you see the mail from xyz?”. “Yes sir” — I replied. He told me that how much time it will take to fix the issue?

I : “30 min, I guess”

He : “If it’s possible for you, please login for some time, no matter   at what time. But make sure that only if you will get time.”

I told him that I will try my best. I logged in at 7 PM, he was online. We worked together and issue took 1 hour to fix and submitted for QA. He then first thanked me and told me that I will make sure you will get at least half day attendance for today. It will not be in your leave anymore.

In fact, there was an issue on production server in another module and that was impacting the client’s sale.

Both of the above examples are from the real life experience of mine. In first example you can see that when boss was rude to me, I became double rude to him and agreed to leave the job. But, in second example you can see that I was ready to work even after spending full day at hospital with my loved one.

The same thing happens with everyone in life and a leader takes the responsibility of his/her team members. Let me share some tips for leaders based on my experience (I will be waiting for some suggestion from highly experienced people to correct myself if I am wrong on some points).

# Lead yourself first then team

If you are leading a team but not leading yourself, you will never know the actual requirement of team. Working with team means you are part of the team and by that way, you are also active player of team. Now, by going above examples you can choose whether you want to run the team with dictatorship or with flexibilities. Yes, sometimes, you may give them bitter pills to make the process smoother but only when required.

Leader is also responsible for giving either free hand to their team members or give them selective responsibilities. Things may vary depend upon the situation but I got better results with free hands (But, do this only when you got every team member fully responsible). Here free hand doesn’t mean to give him power to take managerial decision of project or influencing client’s decision But to give them free hands of what they are responsible for.

Also, by leading yourself you will know how your decisions are making impact on team.

# Read More and more books

Again, I am using this point because, reading books is problem solver every time. Everyday you will get new idea if you will read some books. Try to read 1 books in every quarter. That will make a big change.

# Share some stories with team members

This is also a good idea i found from my past experience. It indeed make impacts. Whenever I am with any of my team member in 1:1 meeting, after feedback discussion I used to tell at least one story based upon my past experience and let me tell you that guide them alot. This works for them and they can create their own problem solving techniques based upon your life experiences.

# Don’t feel like king

One important point that I always share with many people. As a lead, you are only a team player with some more responsibilities and some authorities. You are not the king. So, always try to get mixed up with team.

# Don’t hesitate to take feedback from juniors

It is better idea to take the feedback 360-degree. Seniors are obvious to give you feedbacks about your performance but try to take feedbacks from your juniors. This helps a lot to improve your leadership skills.

And many more……

All the above texts are based upon my previous experiences. If someone wants to add something or correct something, you are most welcome.