My friend and Classmate Mike Figliouo (so proud I managed to spell that correctly without looking it up) writes a blog on leadership. When ever he asked for a suggestion on what to write on, I always suggest the same thing: Schofield’s Definition of Discipline: He got tired of me suggesting it, and decided the best way to shut me up was to finally write it. Go read it. It is more important than what I have to write here.
These are my follow on thoughts to his article.
In software, there are people who have no desire to move up the corporate ladder. In many organizations, there is only “Senior Software Engineer” and then positions where you don’t write code.
Software Engineers consider ourselves craftsmen (and Women!) much in the way you would find a blacksmith, hooper or wainwright in a bye-gone era.
Just because you are given the privilege of leading such a group of people, do not, for a moment think that you in any way “above” your engineers. You ai’n’t. Many of them have been given a taste of leadership in the past, and it has left a bitter after-taste. We want to do, not watch. By writing code, you have the ability to ensure the success of the project to a far greater degree than by writing schedules, going to meetings, and all of the other things that are required of managers. It is great that someone has the big picture, company wise, but someone needs to understand what the code does, does not do, and why the twain don’t meet.
But even amongst engineers, especially amongst engineers, there is peer leadership. Now, the term Peer might only mean that two people have the same title, not that they are in any way equals. Engineers have egos, but, as many have mentioned, the best engineers seem to be the most modest. They are the ones that quietly teach, and show that they can learn, even when they have been in the industry longer than you’ve been out of diapers. I may have been their inferiors in coding, but I knew that they did not view me as an inferior. As a result, I have attempted to “venerate and emulate” them. That last quoted bit is from another piece of West Point Knowledge: Worth’s Battalion Orders, but that is a tale for another day.