Why technical leaders fail

“What matters more than solving every scenario perfectly is execution. The ability to get things done trumps generating endless ideas of how some knob in the complex malaise of people and process can be turned. “

Why technical leaders fail

Good software developer != Good leader. Why we stumble as technical leaders…

Of course there are plenty of other industries that are comprised of very highly educated clumped together behind a common goal, but few have such a low barrier to entry in terms of building complete products with a relative small amount of resources. Simply put few other industries offer the intellectual challenge of the endeavor and the ability to realize ideas and products almost in complete isolation.

Due to this low barrier of entry, software tends to attract true creators. At the heart of every coffee slurping geek, is someone that is in love with using his or her mind to create something from scratch. Someone that yearns for a better world. Someone that sees things not for what they are, but the potential of what they can be.

Yet software projects and start-ups have notoriously high failure rates. How can it be that an industry with so many bright and capable people fails so darn much at delivery results? More worrying is how often leaders that come from a technical background fail. Commonsense would have you think that someone that understands the ins and outs of the craft should exceed where more traditional leaders fail? Why is it that so many technical leaders struggle so much to adapt to their role? Why do great engineers make mediocre managers?

The heart of the problem lies in the fact that as an engineer you live in the world of ideas. You are used to exploring the recesses of every problem losing yourself in the world of solutions and efficient designs. You value micro optimization and doing things right. You strive to make each aspect of your code or algorithm as perfect as possible.

The problem is that leadership requires you to be a generalist that is obsessed with execution. There are so many facets to running a business that technical leaders always run the risk of getting lost in the world of ideas, in the process suffering analysis paralysis.

What matters more than solving every scenario perfectly is execution. The ability to get things done trumps generating endless ideas of how some knob in the complex malaise of people and process can be turned. The line between visionary and dogmatic is unfortunately a very fine one.

“Simply put, as a former technical leader if you find that you spend a lot of time talking about ‘the how’ of things instead of ‘the what’ of things you might still be caught in the mindset of a programmer trying to micro optimize every aspect of a system. “

Simply put, as a former technical leader if you find that you spend a lot of time talking about ‘the how’ of things instead of ‘the what’ of things you might still be caught in the mindset of a programmer trying to micro optimize every aspect of a system. Users don’t care about methodology, architecture, design, or technologies. They care about great products that solve their needs and make their lives better. Tune your actions to always doing the things that will yield the best possible product and you will quickly realize that micro optimization to that knob in your process will most of the time not yield a faster better product and is simply a distraction.

Never lose sight of this..

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