A few people have asked me what informs the things I am writing about on this blog. For context, my personal leadership style is a reflection of my morals, the amazing people I have learned from throughout my career, and the books whose ideas I have admired and implemented. It is constantly changing and evolving, but this is its current state.
My journey as a leader is deeply interwoven with my growth. As my leadership skills grew so did my understanding of both my emotions and the emotions of people around me. These learnings feed into one another becoming a virtuous cycle of self development. Leadership is the skill I have worked hardest at developing, and the one I am most proud of. So when I say it’s “personal”, I mean it.
As a leader, it is easy to rely on your title, experience, and personal presence to get the results you want. This is a crutch. It leaves people feeling that their opinions and emotions are being disregarded, fostering a general sense of dissatisfaction. Trust and respect are the foundation of good leadership; they take longer to build but result in an environment where people feel safe, happy, and engaged. My entire leadership style is built around earning the trust and respect of the people I work with, then using that to create highly functional teams that operate on the basis of mutual trust and respect.
People respond to sincerity. I strive to be an honest and straightforward leader. Without a doubt, it has led to some awkward conversations, but in the long term, it has benefited me immensely. Having a track record of following through on the things I say or, at the very least, communicating when plans change, creates an environment where I can ask people to trust me, and they do.
An addendum to the point above: set appropriate boundaries. As a rule, I assume everyone I deal with is acting in good faith, but there are times this is not true. Establishing firm and effective boundaries has made these scenarios much easier to deal with. They allow me to catch and then correct people trying to take advantage of the trust I am extending. The best advice I have been given when setting boundaries is, “If someone crosses a professional boundary and it destroys your working relationship, this is a sign you need to have more boundaries, closer in.”
Whether I need to deliver bad news to someone on my team or inform the CEO about a failure to deliver, I accept responsibility and don’t pass the blame onto someone else. To soften the blow, I try to analyze what went wrong and communicate what I am going to do to rectify the issue.
In every company I’ve worked there have been senior developers whose technical knowledge surpasses my own. They know the codebase, its history, and have spent a lifetime honing their development skills. The knowledge and support of these individuals are crucial to the effective delivery of any project. I find it best to foster a collaborative environment where everyone feels heard. My role in these discussions is to listen, understand, and guide the conversation while integrating the larger strategic picture into the technical discussion. There will be times when I need to make a decision that differs from the recommendations of this group. In those cases, I always ensure to explain why and how the decision has been made.
I like to extend this collaborative environment to everyone on my team, guiding the technical discussion and planning in a direction I approve of, rather than demanding a specific approach. By asking questions and making suggestions, I can influence the final product while still allowing room for new ideas and team growth.
I work to give people a safe environment to make their own decisions and learn from their successes and failures. From experience, failure often teaches more then success does. It’s essential to provide this opportunity for my team to fail in places it won’t critically impact delivery. When success occurs, I celebrate it both internally and externally. If something goes wrong, we sit down and have a reflective conversation, without assigning blame. The focus is on lessons learnt and what we will do differently next time. Crucially, I model the behavior I expect, showing how to respond to both success and failure.
I’m a firm believer that stress and overwork hinder creativity, productivity, and engagement. I encourage my team to go home on time and take their holidays. If I ever need to ask someone to work extra, I acknowledge the effort and compensate them with time off.
When I first started working, one of my first colleagues used to give feedback in a way that would bring out the teenage contrarian in me. I ignored their advice because of how it was delivered and ended up being proven wrong repeatedly. Learning that feedback should be considered on its own merits regardless of the way it is delivered was an incredibly valuable lesson. Conversely, when delivering feedback, I try to ensure that what I have to say is thoughtful and delivered in a way that will encourage reflection and change.
My personal leadership style has been shaped by experiences, failures, successes and the wisdom shared by others. It’s a continuous journey of learning and adaptation, driven by the core belief that good leaders don’t instruct; they inspire, mentor, and strive to bring out the best in others. If I write another article like this later in life, the content may be very different, but I believe the core principles and morals will remain the same.