Thursday, November 29, 2007

Characteristics of a Leader

The following is coted from the book Analyzing Requirements and Defining Solution Architectures.

Finding Effective Leaders

For the person in charge of putting together a project team, the first task is to decide who will work on the project. This seemingly simple (but more often complex) decision can dramatically affect the project's outcome.

Finding leaders within an organization is not a difficult process. By definition, leaders are recognized by those they work with. It's important to remember that we are talking about leaders here, not bosses. Every organization has its share of managers, directors, and so on, but the hierarchical structure of an organization does not determine who the true leaders are. Actions and characteristics, rather than job titles, identify leaders.

Why do we need leaders? Because we have so many followers. It's important to realize that labeling people as leaders and followers does not imply a value judgment. We must have leaders to be successful, but we must also have followers. Leaders provide direction for the team. Followers get the work done. The team needs to strike a balance between its leaders and followers. It must decide what to do and then must do it, so both leaders and followers are equally important and valuable. An absence of either leaders or followers will hinder the project's success.

Certain characteristics are present in many leaders. Common qualities of leaders include:

  • Understanding and meeting the needs of others.
  • Communicating well with groups and individuals.
  • Earning the respect of internal and external customers.
  • Displaying commitment to well-defined purposes.
  • Making a positive difference.
  • Having confidence in his or her abilities.
  • Practicing good problem-solving skills.
  • Helping others to develop their skills.

Many people will read this list and say, "I do those things." More people will read this list and say, "I intend to do those things." But being a leader also means knowing the difference between intent and impact. When measuring their own success, people measure their intent; when measuring other people's success, they measure their impact. The impact that leaders have on others may or may not be their intent, and leaders' intent may not have the impact they were striving for. The proper way to measure people's leadership skills is by the impact they actually have, not by their intent. We can summarize this concept by saying, "Other people's perceptions are reality."

Total Participation in Design

Jim McCarthy summarizes the concept of total participation in design in Dynamics of Software Development:

The goal in any product design is to have the best ideas become the basis of the product. Everybody on the team should be working to accomplish that goal.

Each role participates in the generation of the Functional Specification because each role has a unique perspective of the design and tries to ensure that the design meets their role's objectives, as well as the project team's objectives.


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