I have been fortunate enough to work with highly competent people, most of my professional life. Whether they were software engineers, system administrators, project managers, business analysts or executives. Each has been smart, savvy, extremely skilled in their craft and very often, great leaders. In cases where they were my peers, they were great partners in accomplishing whatever challenging tasks at hand. That a group of people were successful and continued to be successful can be attributed to the fact that we trusted one another to do the right thing, and provide the feedback, understanding and support when needed. Trust is the hallmark and the foundation of a great team.
There is a trend with my posts about software design where I write a lot about how it is a creative process. This is largely because for years, software design was considered to be busy work, and I take extreme issue with that philosophy. I find producing consistently effective software designs to be a very difficult task, and I deeply respect those who are good at it. I also find that those who are good at it have in common that they are all inspired workers.
In the software industry, there are always jobs. Sure the larger economy might tank, unemployment might skyrocket, but there are *always* jobs when it comes to writing software. This is one of the reason why people go into writing software in the first place — guaranteed employability. If you’re an out of work software developer, and think I’m being unkind try this: drop your asking price below market – they’ll hire you. The problem is, a job is one thing, but finding the right job is another entirely.
One of the most difficult challenges I face in my professional life is is maintaining a healthy working relationship with people who I believe are deeply incompetent. Incompetency is, for me, extremely difficult to stomach — far more difficult than, say, laziness or apathy, because whereas those might point to an attitude problem, incompetency reveals that the basic skills necessary to effectively perform daily tasks are missing. To further exacerbate the issue, one of my [many] personal character flaws is that I find it extremely difficult to relate to or to support someone I do not respect. Because of this, I’ve not only become acutely aware of the truth behind the Peter Principle, but I’ve also picked up on an even more dangerous corollary that’s become more and more prevalent in the workplace. For the sake of discussion, I’ll refer to it as the Napier Principle.
Corporate culture is obsessed with the term “leadership”. They pride themselves on being “leaders”, and for fostering “leadership” within their organization. We even have the idea that everyone is a “leader” in his or her own right, each taking personal accountability over what they do every day and “leading” in their own special way. I glaze over when people talk about leadership. I fully expect that you’re glazing over just reading the opening of this article. It’s old. It’s stale. We’ve heard it all before. At this point it’s boring. Someone who takes ownership of cobbling together a PowerPoint before a big presentation, and the people who lead troops to storm Normandy ain’t the same type of leader. They ain’t even in the same ballpark. Those types of leaders didn’t want to lead, they were drafted into it and rose to the occasion. To the rest of us, these are the people we want to call leaders.