5 min read

The Leadership Garden Newsletter – #51

The Leadership Garden Newsletter – #51

Hello friend, I’m Csaba from Leadership Garden, and this is a weekly list of interesting articles that I come across that help me grow my thinking.

I hope you find something new to think about and share it with your friends.

And, if you forgot, this is in your inbox because you asked me to send it to you. You can always unsubscribe by clicking the link at the bottom of this email.

Historical fact of the week: 🍄 July 16, 1945 – The experimental Atomic bomb “Fat Boy” was set off at 5:30 a.m. in the desert of New Mexico desert, creating a mushroom cloud rising 41,000 ft (ca. 12 km). The bomb emitted heat three times the temperature of the interior of the sun and wiped out all plant and animal life within a mile. Aligned well with the premier of the Oppenheimer movie.

Gelling your Engineering leadership team

  • 📚 Peers should be considered as the “first team” in engineering leadership, as it is harder to be a good teammate to peers than to direct reports.
  • 🤝 Incentives between peers often conflict, making it challenging to align goals and priorities.
  • 💼 When stepping into a new executive role, it is important to assess the existing engineering leadership team and make necessary changes.
  • 🗂️ Key questions to answer include identifying members who need to be replaced, addressing broken relationships within the team, and evaluating the organizational structure to ensure the right leaders are in place.
  • 💡 Creating clear team values, establishing team structure and rituals, fostering personal interactions, and enforcing adherence to values are crucial for effective team operation.
  • 🤝 Team members should understand their role in leading their own teams, communicating and staying aligned with peers, and navigating the executive effectively.
  • ⚔️ Internal competition can arise when team members perceive a lack of opportunity or when they apply poor habits learned from previous experiences.
  • 🛠️ Debugging and operating an engineering leadership team requires ongoing effort and consistent implementation of team values and expectations.

There is no number one tip

  • 🌟 There is no one tip or secret to becoming a good leader or manager.
  • 🌟 Developing intuition is essential for effective leadership and management.
  • 🌟 Leadership and management skills are acquired through learned experience and a combination of individual talent, study, and intuition.
  • 🌟 Learning how to learn is crucial for new managers, as they are beginners again.
  • 🌟 Continuous training and exposure to tools and experiences are key to developing leadership skills.
  • 🌟 Tools are tangible skills that can be used in the job, such as communication techniques and project management.
  • 🌟 Experiences provide opportunities to test and measure the effectiveness of tools and refine leadership skills.
  • 🌟 Viewing advice, books, and articles as potential tools rather than strict prescriptions is beneficial.
  • 🌟 Each leader's approach may vary depending on their unique context, company, and individuals they work with.
  • 🌟 Growth as a leader comes from consciously observing the effectiveness of tools and seeking feedback from colleagues.
  • 🌟 Training your model of intuition takes time and requires actively engaging with new experiences.
  • 🌟 The more doors open for you as a leader, the more effectively you can match experiences with honed tools.
  • 🌟 Learning by doing and continuously expanding your model of intuition is essential for leadership growth.

How To Do Great Work

Paul Graham gives us a recipe for doing great work. Lots of wisdom in there!

  • 💡 [Takeaway 1]: When choosing what to work on, consider your natural aptitude, deep interest, and opportunities for great work.
  • 🌱 [Takeaway 2]: Find something you have an aptitude for and great interest in, even if it's challenging to identify initially.
  • 📚 [Takeaway 3]: Learn enough about your chosen field to reach the frontier of knowledge and identify gaps in understanding.
  • 🔎 [Takeaway 4]: Ask questions and explore promising gaps in knowledge, even if they seem strange or go against mainstream interest.
  • 🚀 [Takeaway 5]: Work hard on excitingly ambitious projects that align with your interests and curiosity.
  • ⏰ [Takeaway 6]: Consistency and persistence are key to great work, even if progress feels slow at first.
  • 👥 [Takeaway 7]: Engage with different ideas, meet people, read extensively, and ask questions to expand your knowledge and increase chances of luck.
  • 💡 [Takeaway 8]: Optimize for interestingness, as your field of interest may change and evolve over time.
  • 🧩 [Takeaway 9]: Be willing to switch projects if you discover something more exciting or aligned with your passions.
  • 💪 [Takeaway 10]: Embrace hard work and avoid per-project procrastination; maintain an earnest and intellectually honest approach.
  • 🌟 [Takeaway 11]: Aim to do the best work possible rather than pursuing a distinctive style or affected persona.
  • 🎯 [Takeaway 12]: Focus on consistency, cutting what doesn't fit, and maintaining elegance in your work.
  • 🤔 [Takeaway 13]: Be open to admitting mistakes, ask critical questions, and cultivate informality in your approach.
  • 🌍 [Takeaway 14]: Seek originality and new ideas by working on challenging tasks and discussing your interests with others.

Leading vs. Managing in the Engineering World

Let's end the influencer charade of the “Leaders vs. Managers” false dichotomoy once and for all. Usually, our roles need both and they aren't working against each other.

  • 💡 Leadership and management are critical and complementary roles within engineering teams.
  • 💼 Leadership and management require different skill sets.
  • 🚀 Leaders focus on strategic thinking, driving innovation, and setting long-term goals.
  • 📅 Managers oversee day-to-day operations, project deadlines, quality control, and skill development.
  • 🌟 Successful engineering teams require both robust leadership and effective management.
  • 👥 Leadership can emerge from any role and is not limited to specific titles or seniority levels.
  • 🌍 Effective leaders have a strong understanding of the bigger picture and possess business acumen.
  • 🔄 Transitioning from manager to leader requires developing emotional intelligence and the ability to inspire and motivate others.
  • 🔑 Managers play a critical role in executing strategies and ensuring high-quality output.
  • 🤝 Leadership and management are not competing roles but two sides of the same coin.
  • 💪 Balancing leadership and management creates a supportive and engaging work environment.
  • 🎯 A team with a strong leader but a weak manager may face challenges in operational efficiency and career progression.
  • 💼 A team with a strong manager but weak leadership may excel in operational efficiency but struggle with innovation, motivation, and strategic direction.

Team Lead vs EM vs Tech Lead

In Pedro's own words: “The meaning of each entry-level leadership position is subject to much debate. Having had them all myself, I’ll share what they mean to me and who I give them to these days.” — no spoilers this time, go and read it, it's short, to the point and a much-needed disambiguation.

Embracing Failure

  • 📝 Embracing failure is essential for maximizing potential gains and unleashing innovation.
  • 🎮 Framing failure as in a video game can increase persistence and enhance subsequent successes.
  • 👥 Disassociating product goal achievement from individual employee evaluations promotes boldness and innovation. (Ooh, this is a controversial one!)
  • 📈 Evaluating individual performance should be based on demonstrated behaviors and competencies, not just project outcomes.
  • 🔀 Reframing failure as a learning opportunity and decoupling it from professional evaluations unlocks the full potential of teams.
  • 🌱 A different mindset about failure can be fostered through gamified education systems that reward goal accomplishment.
  • 📘 The book “Reality is Broken” by Jane McGonigal explores the potential of gamifying life for personal growth and insight.

If you liked this, please share with your friends and let them know how to subscribe. I'd be grateful for any feedback you have, just drop me an email at [email protected]. Writing takes time, effort, and some hosting costs, so if you'd like to support me:

Buy Me A Coffee