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Ask Slashdot: Is Development Leadership Overvalued? 252

Posted by Soulskill
from the or-is-followership-undervalued dept.
gspec writes "I am an engineer with about 14 years experience in the industry. Lately I have been interviewing with a few companies hoping to land a better position. In almost all those interviews, I was asked these types of question: 'Have you been a leader in a project?' or 'Why after these many years, you are not in a management? Do you lack leadership skills?' Sometimes these questions discourage me and make me feel like an underachiever. I found an article in which the author talked about exactly this, and I agree with him. I think in this modern society, especially in the U.S., we overvalue the leaders and undervalue the followers to the point that we forget that leaders cannot do any good if they do not have good followers."
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Ask Slashdot: Is Development Leadership Overvalued?

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  • Yes and NO (Score:4, Informative)

    by s.petry (762400) on Wednesday August 07, 2013 @05:30PM (#44502761)

    Being a good programmer/engineer/admin/etc.. does not indicate that you will be a good leader. It is two separate skills, and two separate ways of thinking. The military has had "leadership" schools for a very long time for just this reason, and most private sector companies do also. It is much harder to lead a squad of riflemen than it is to be a riflemen. Driving and motivating others requires different psychology than driving and motivating yourself.

    The question I think you are trying to get answered is "How do you prove leadership abilities when you have not been assigned such a job title?" In this case, play on what you have done. Lead team meetings in the managers absence, set up training courses for our level 1 people, built wiki pages for new products and worked with engineers to ensure support, etc... If you have done nothing like those, I would doubt your abilities to lead too.

    I have been in the business for 25+ years, much of that being a team lead role. To the people that ask me why I have not been a manager, the answer is simple. I love the technical work more than I love the political skills required to be a good manager. I love writing the tools and pulling out numbers much more than I like to present them to the audience. It's fun for me to teach people, not fun for me to be responsible for them.

  • by Bearhouse (1034238) on Wednesday August 07, 2013 @05:37PM (#44502857)

    Not being unsympathetic, but if after 14 years experience in industry you've never held a position of responsibility, then there is probably a reason for it.
    Look into that - which you can do better than any of us here - and reflect upon it.
    Then you can explain it well in the next interview...

    The problem seems to be that you're looking for a "better position" - good - but maybe without realising that these days everyone is told to hire "potential" as well as immediate competence.

    Right or wrong? I don't know, but that's the way it is.
    Will be hard to get out of your rut without making some kind of effort...
    You could perhaps get involved with a non work-related activity which shows leadership & responsability; coaching kids football, military reserves...
    Or do a part-time MBA :)

  • by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Wednesday August 07, 2013 @06:16PM (#44503255)

    Managers are a much derided group today. The reason is the way American managers are trained and developed. Poorly. And with little recognition that the skill set is something that you can't develop working as a line employee. Yet it really is critical to the success of an organization.

    Tracy Kidder's Soul of a New Machine illustrates an example of good management.

    Gregory Peck's role in 12 O'Clock High is also a good example of effective management.

    Leadership, on the other hand is much over-rated.

  • by jmcbain (1233044) on Wednesday August 07, 2013 @06:30PM (#44503409)
    Parent is correct.

    At large corporations such as Microsoft, Google, and others, there are always two tracks: management and individual contributor. You can reach the same levels of seniority and pay in either track. At the top of the management track, you can excel to be a director and then VP, etc. At the top of the individual contributor track, you can reach principal engineer, then distinguished engineer, etc.

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