Welcome to week four of five in our series on #CareerReady skills. These are professional development skills that most 21st century jobs require. Today, we’re focused on Leadership!
Many of us will not have a so-called “fancy” title in our jobs, volunteer activities or other organizations we’re involved in. Nonetheless, we’ll be expected to work with a team of people and accomplish great things together. This is exactly why leadership is so important: regardless of your title, you will need to influence others to get things done.
Eleanor Roosevelt, former first lady of the United States is a brilliant example of someone who led by influence — she rallied leaders of nations to compile the first Universal Declaration of Human Rights using her influence, not a title.
What is Leadership?
This is a lofty question, but we’re up for the challenge! The important thing to remember is that there are many different definitions of the term. We’ve come up with a definition that we think is most essential for the 21st century:
“Leadership is the ability to influence and empower people to achieve a goal.”
Notice the language that is not included in this definition: titles, power or hierarchy. That is not leadership. That’s because you don’t need a title to be a leader, it’s that simple. What you do need is the ability to get people to be the best they can be to achieve your collective goal.
What Does Leadership Have To Do With Coding?
Our definition of leadership is most suited for programmers. As a coder, you’re building and creating products or services with a team of people, and these people may not report to you directly. However, you’ll need to influence them on why they should get on board with the strategy, the architecture or the approach you’re suggesting. Furthermore, as you advance in your career as a programmer, you’ll work with junior software engineers, web developers and technical product managers. As a leader, you’ll want to empower them, coach them and bring out the best in them, so that together you can build great things.
Six Strategies to Level Up on your Leadership Skills
1. Own your work. First, do the work you’re expected to do and do it well. If you’re dependable, committed and passionate about your own work, you’ll be able to garner respect from others and influence decisions. For example, if you need to finish up some boring, time-consuming administrative work, make it a fun afternoon with some snacks, good music and crank away. There are many people depending on you to get that work done and if you come through, you’ll be respected even more.
2. Be inclusive. Include your team members as early as possible on a project, because you’re not going to know everything. More importantly, it gives them a seat at the table and makes them feel valued. Remember, the more diverse your team in terms of backgrounds and opinions, the better the outcome. For example, if you’ve heard the administrative assistant on your team come up with good ideas, include him or her in the next brainstorming meeting.
3. Take an interest in people. Take a genuine interest in your team members — don’t do it just because it’s something that might get you ahead in your career. Ask them about their background, their life story, their fears, their hopes and dreams. If you disagree with them on a project, knowing their background might help you understand their perspective better. Of course, we’re not saying that you’ll be best friends with each other. You don’t have to be. All we’re saying is that you’re able to empathize with your colleagues as much as possible.
4. Humility. Be humble and adopt a servant leader attitude. No task should be “beneath” you — if the copier is closest to you at a meeting, get up and make the photocopies needed. A leader doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to be loud or only be involved in the big picture stuff. It is OK to get involved in the dirty details if you think it will be of value.
5. Become a subject matter expert. Get to know the subject matter you’re working on inside and out — read up on opposing views, different ways of achieving the goal, research on the topic. If you’re going to influence someone, you’ll need to know what you’re talking about.
6. Know your style. Every one of us has a natural leadership style; some are consensus driven, some are more authoritarian (Steve Jobs is famous for this), some others are like coaches. Get to know your natural leadership style and adopt something useful from each of the different styles, depending on the situation. For example, if you’re naturally consensus driven and you’ve already had several meetings without any conclusion, go ahead and adopt a more authoritative style so that you can make the decision and move on.
21st century leadership is about how you’re able to inspire, influence and empower people around you to be the best they can be, in order to achieve a common goal. You’re a leader, without the title. It was never about the title anyway. The important thing is to know your natural leadership style, find a problem you want to solve, a good team of people to help you do it and go forth and inspire them to get it done!
And finally, we want to hear from you!
Tweet @SPICEDacademy using the hashtag #CareerReady and tell us how you’re teaching yourself #CareerReady skills or how you’re already applying them in your everyday life!
If you’re interested in learning how to code in a great city, explore SPICED Academy in Berlin today!