Tips From a Relutant Leader

Those of you who know me personally may be familiar with the fact that I want nothing to do with management or leadership. I really don’t. I spent a number of years in a project where leadership was something that was quite attractive to me. After I went through that period of time, I realized that what I really want is absolutely nothing to do with responsibility. I definitely do not want to be responsible for anyone else’s success or guiding directions of an overall team.

But time and time again, I was told that I was needed to take this kind of thing on. I care about people and especially my teammates, so if I feel like I can make a difference by being in that kind of role, I will do my best.

But I won’t like it.

I have one non-negotiable rule when it comes to team leadership. I absolutely, postively want nothing to do with any HR-related functions. I don’t want to approve timecards, negotiate salaries, handle budgets or anything that determines the fate of the team through outside influences. I only want to accept responsibility for things that I feel qualified to judge or debate. I have enough personal problems, so I certainly don’t want to take on someone else’s personal issues. I don’t mind being the empath and friend when they need it, but I don’t want to be responsible for the fate of someone’s career. I just want to get the job done. The HR kind of stuff can be given to someone who wants to handle that aspect of leadership. It’s not me.

To that end, I’ve put together a small list of tips that I’ve thought about over the years. I work in IT, so these tips are very IT-focused.

  • Technology is a people problem.

I don’t care how you crack it. Technology exists by the people, for the people, and because of the people. Technology cannot exist without the people. Almost every technology problem (well, actually, every problem I can think of) can be traced back to a challenge of humanity.

  • Always say “we.” Never say “I” until you have to.

It’s the little things. Develop a habit of saying, “we” when you refer to a challenge or more importantly, a success by someone on the team. I can’t stress this enough. If one person succeeds, make everyone succeed as a team. If someone experiences a challenge, refer to the challenge belonging to the entire team. This isn’t just important for your teammates - it’s important for your customer to get the feeling that you’re committing as a team, not as an individual.

Is it ever ok to use the word, “I?” Yes. But very rarely. I try to only use the word “I” when it’s important for me to display a personal committment to the resolution of an issue. The key word is “personal.” If you feel like you need to make it a personal responsibility, that’s when it’s ok to use the word “I.” Just make sure that you really will fulfill the commitment.

  • Don’t be afraid to admit when you have no idea what’s going on.

I often find myself lost and unaware of what’s going on within my team. That’s ok and to be expected. Ask your team to help keep you grounded. Help them make you succeed - and in turn, you will make them succeed.

I hope these tips help. If I think of more, I’ll add them. For now, my kids are screaming for dinner. Yay, quarantine.