Servant Leadership

Over the last year or so, my role at TWG has shifted more and more into managing other people. It’s been a welcome challenge – it requires an entirely different set of skills from being a developer, and it’s an opportunity to work a new group of muscles.

Moving into management is often seen as an inevitability for good developers. They think they have to take that step to climb in the organization. And, at many companies, they’re right. It’s a shame. If a senior developer wants to stay on the technical track and master their craft, it should be celebrated – not seen as a career-limiting move. But if management interests you, it offers a unique opportunity.

Growing as a developer often means widening the scope of your responsibilities. As a junior developer, you’re responsible for one small task at a time. When you move up into the intermediate category, you’re responsible for one – or many – larger features. Finally, as a senior developer, you’re responsible for entire projects.

It isn’t just a widening of responsibility – it’s a widening of your potential impact. At one level you can positively impact a set of features or a project. But moving into a leadership role means having an impact on an entire team. For better or worse.

I’ve been lucky to have amazing mentors as I start this journey. They’ve shown me, through their words and actions, what effective leadership looks like. It isn’t about amassing power, getting a promotion, or making tons of money. It’s about having a positive impact on a group of people, and the organization as a whole.

Wanting to do well in this new role, I’ve been devouring every book, podcast, blog post, and conference talk I can find. Along the way, I discovered a concept I love: servant leadership.

Traditional leadership generally involves the accumulation and exercise of power by one at the “top of the pyramid.” By comparison, the servant-leader shares power, puts the needs of others first and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible.

Servant leadership turns the traditional model of management on its head. Instead of employees serving their bosses, leaders help their people. They teach others and provide opportunities for growth. Everyone on the team gets a chance to learn and advance.

If you’ve been lucky enough to have some good managers in your life, I’d be willing to bet they fit that description. And I can’t think of a better example to try and live up to.