Everyone has their own leadership philosophy. It evolves with time as one grows and learns by experiencing different challenges and situations. Leadership is very individualistic and it stems from people’s own mental make-up and experiences that shape them. The more varied the experiences are, I believe, the more the leadership muscle will be built.
It is hard to define leadership philosophies. There can be different approaches to leadership but not a universal blueprint. It is certainly not a one-style-fits-all approach and one person’s way might not work for someone else.
You don’t have to wait to gain a title which defines your leadership, to start. You are a leader no matter what your title or role is. There is value that every person adds and you should be proud of what you bring to the table.
Over the different projects and organisations I have worked for and the leaders that have made an impact, I have been amazed at the knowledge they possess. The knowledge, information and data are what give them the ability to make business/technical decisions that are effective and in the best interest of everyone.
Below are some questions that I have found to be very effective to gain knowledge around the project/organisation/teams that I have worked with. I have created this list with my experience and that has worked for me. These questions don’t get answered in a day or a month. However, with experience I have gotten around to figuring this out quicker. I have found the knowledge gained over time invaluable and very helpful in providing effective and efficient solutions to very simple problems. I apply this for all my projects and build on it.
Business, people, culture, technology and self — are the pillars for gaining knowledge. There is much more to business, people, culture, technology and self. However, answering these questions has always given me an effective starting point and a good foot hold.
Below are my 5 categories of questions I try to answer to build on my leadership muscle:
· Understand the business/product: What is the value add of the business/product?
o What is the business about?
o What is the product that I will closely work with?
o Does it have an existing website/app? Play with it. Explore it.
o What value is the business trying to add to its customers?
o What problem is the business trying to solve?
o How is the business trying to solve this problem?
o Is there a similar solution available in the market? Find out about it. Research about it.
o How do I feel about the product/application?
o Do I like it? If yes, why? If not, why not?
o Can I think of one way to make the product/application better?
· Understanding People and Culture: People drive culture and culture drives people. How do I make a difference?
o What is my team structure?
o Who do I work with day in and day out?
o How can I add value to the team?
o Can I help my team in removing any blockers?
o Am I enabling them?
o What is the operating model of my team?
o Are there any stretch opportunities at work any team member would be interested in?
o How is my team’s growth mindset?
o What drives them?
o What is my project/program structure?
o What is the hierarchy?
o Who are my SMEs?
o What are the team pain points?
o What other teams help us deliver? Do we work with vendors or partners?
o Which process teams do I need to interact with?
o How is delivery and operations interacting?
· Understanding Technology: Technology is an enabler to be competitive in the market. How much do I care for it?
o What can technology enable?
o Which technology is my application built on?
o Which add-on tools and technology are used in conjunction with the application?
o Which source repository is used?
o Which CI/CD tools? Which process tools? Which testing tools? Which monitoring tools?
o Which downstream/upstream systems does the application talk to?
o What are the pain points for the application?
o How is technology evolving? Not only within my scope of work but outside as well.
· Understand processes and frameworks: There are boundaries that need to be followed, there are boundaries that can be pushed and there are boundaries that should be broken.
o How are requirements brought in?
o Which SDLC methodology is used?
o Are there any team-wide/project-wide rituals? (read: stand-ups, team meetings, retrospectives, planning, showcase)
o How is change managed? What is the change management process?
o What is the release process and schedule?
o Which work is automated and which work for release and change management is manual?
o How is testing incorporated and at what stage?
o When and how is non-functional testing done?
o What is the CI/CD process, if any?
o How are incidents managed?
o Which processes are enabling and which ones are blockers?
· Understand my own self: How much do I know myself and value myself and the value that my role brings? Only when I value myself can I start adding value.
o How can I add value?
o How does my skills/expertise/experience fit in?
o What are my areas of improvement?
o Do I come in with a growth mindset?
o How can I learn more and grow so that I can continue to add more value?
o Is the work adding value to me?
o How open am I to getting and giving feedback?
o What makes me uncomfortable at work?
o What drives me?
o What is my leadership philosophy?
o What are my career goals — short and long term?
Answering these questions gradually have helped me with new roles I have ventured into. These questions have helped me grow, learn and lead.
People, Product, Process and a keen eye for the problems have enabled me to start adding value.