I want to start this article by saying this is only my opinion and it is not, in any way, enforceable to other kinds of people. I want to emphasize that I'm talking about competent leaders.
Let's say we have a team of five or six members, working on different projects throughout the year. It doesn't matter if that team is agile or not, what matter is that someone will be holding The Leadership, meaning that he or she will steer the team in the same direction. I have encountered two types of those people, the Boss and the Motivator.
The Boss and the Motivator usually shared some traits as such:
- they both value the opinion of an expert strongly;
- they both receive great respect from their peers;
- they both take decision they believe are for the best interest for the project success.
The difference is basically how those leaders take decisions.
The Boss will usually weigh in the pros and cons and take a decision by him or herself and may do so over expert opinion. With a boss, you know where you are going.
The Motivator will usually take expert opinions first, or at least the opinion of concern members of the team. With a motivator, you have a bigger voice.
(NOTE: usually doesn't mean always).
I generally enjoy working with bosses when they have a lot of experience, counting in tens of years. At that point, they generally have a very well-tuned vision of how a project should go down to. They know the drill, the pitfall and know how to explain why some opinions have been left out. I must say that in my career, I might have worked under two or three great bosses, out of a dozen.
The main drawback I have with bosses are when they are managing a kind of project they never had before. I once had a 30-years of experience in C++ developing different tools, being sent on a Web application in PHP using an MVC Framework. I kid you not when I say it took a month to explain to that guy that memory management is not really a thing in PHP at that point and also that CSS is not really the forte of software engineers.
I generally enjoy working with motivators when they first have some experience in at least half the concept needed for the project. Those I really love working with were those who put a lot of hours in order to fetch up the most important information on the domain they have little knowledge. They are dynamic, meaning that they can try something (prototype), and if it does not work, go the other way. I usually feel more part of a team, with a voice that is being heard.
At some point, a motivator needs to take decisions, and sometimes they need to be made against the majority. This is where the line between a good motivator and a bad one is: their ability to make that call. I had so many of these people that literally, in a span of three months, start to point A, went to point B, to come back to point A without even noticing it.
My career span over 10 years, so I like to think about me as a motivator. I had many projects where I was the manager and really liked to listen to what people had come up with, making propositions to fill the gaps between two concepts, and see the final product working has expected. I do believe a boss would have made the same job faster, but since only the experience will get you there, better be a good motivator.
I would like to see what you think, what kind of good leader you have encountered, but the most important is how do you see yourself?