Thoughts on Leadership in the Context of a Team

Have fun. Do work.

It gets more and more difficult to find the right talent to match the right team every single year – I’m not sure that it’s the talent pool necessarily but rather my maturity as a leader that demands the top-bar of talent that comes through my doors.

Actually, nevermind – the moment I wrote that I knew the answer already: It’s me.

You see, the challenge is that appearances are so darn convincing these days – the internet allows me to see all that a person is capable of, but there are only a few that can really operate out of their strengths and pull magic out of the proverbial hat – there are too many frauds – well, that’s probably too harsh – there are too many people who believe they have figured out what they do and who they are and who they want to be (and can have mediocre execution) when they are actually not operating optimally at all.

There is no greater playground for this test than in computer programming and software development – true engineering is more than pushing code and making things happen – it’s a way of seeing the world, turning real life challenges and problems into viable solutions.

Call yourself a “developer” and I will demand a few things that very few so-called “developers” are capable of doing. For example, a software developer should understand fundamentally a few things – I’ll name two:

  • Compiling – Do they understand what a compiler is? If not, you’re not a developer.
  • Memory Management – Do they understand memory management with applications? If not, then you’re not a developer.

This purist take on names and titles might offend a few but I find it incredibly freeing (and so should you) – and here’s why I believe this especially in the context of building high-performance teams (the only ones that I want to work with and for): Because it simply strips away the fluff of building world-changing products. There is no time to waste, no time to operate diluted, and simply no way that I could possibly afford (literally) any talent for the bootstrapped organizations that I manage.

What this freedom should do for the individual is give them the opportunity to fully invest in who they are uniquely and the talents, strengths, and value that they bring that no one else can bring. It level-sets conversations and creates a common language for the entire team, which is critical because we move fast. We can’t afford to have any miscommunication that will soften our product’s effectiveness, hold back our timelines, and bring palatable profitability to our business.

It’s just not worth it – and great leaders know this. I’ve just begun to learn this, and it’s taken me quite some time to pull myself through the mist of assumed expertise and really hammer down the things that just didn’t stick well, with myself and with team dynamics.

Leadership and teams is more about individual self-leadership than anything else – and top talent knows how to have incredible self-management before they can ever lead anyone else. I don’t hire code-monkeys and I don’t work with any – I work with leaders who could independently create incredible businesses, life-changing applications, and sufficiently provide for their families on their own – they’ve just chosen to do it in the context of a team because they know that they will be infinitely more successful because of it.

And, they’ll have much more fun at the same time.

If you want to be a leader then you have to come to grips with who you are, what you do, and what you do uniquely well – what you can only do in the context of a high-performance team. If you’re working alone then you can’t possibly do this to begin with. That’s why I say that the solopreneur is completely dead.

Sorry if that offends you – it is what it is. Talk to anyone that you truly admire, the ones that are doing great stuff, the people that you read every single day in your RSS reader – they aren’t doing it by themselves, they have teams, partners, co-pilots, self-managed leaders that they sit with every single day, those people just might not get as much press as the guy up front. There are too many examples to name. Why then do you think you’re so special as to do it by yourself?

Go figure.