I’ve grown up reading Tom Clancy and probably most of you have at least seen Red October, so this book caught my eye when browsing used books for a recent trip. It’s a fairly human look at what’s involved in sailing on a Trident missile submarine…
The word leadership has many synonyms attributed to it. Something that can be learned early on in one’s career is that having a leader you can trust is very important. Trust is something that is earned; not given. As I reflect over the years I’ve noticed mistakes that have been made along the way; mistakes that have often been learning experiences for myself to hopefully improve areas that need improving.
Below are characteristics that, in my opinion, make up a good leader, but the list is not an exclusive set. No, in fact there are many more that won’t be listed. This post is just to get your thought process flowing and maybe spark some interest in areas that you (the data professional) might not have thought of before.
This topic in and of itself could have its own dedicated blog post. This is something that many data professionals have a hard time with – myself included at times. The art of communication is a key component in a data professionals tool belt; many only think of a tool belt that consists of technical utilities. I am of the opinion that one should add necessary skill sets such as communication in their every day repertoire for it is in this we get to interact with people on a daily basis.
- Team based communication
- Client based communication
- Business unit based communication
- Meeting based communication
Communication is all around us; it is how we interact. Are we one who people like to come to with problems? Perhaps people shy away from us because we constantly tell them how wrong they are? Whatever the case may be there are gaps in communication and this characteristic is something that will always have to be worked on daily.
Whether you lead a team or you are a sole data professional doing your thing there will be times we all need a dose of humility. I can honestly say, personally, that our team I’m on would not be where it is today without everyone included. I’m going to just say this here to get it out-of-the-way; there will always be something that someone else knows that you don’t. That’s okay; it is part of our journey we call gaining knowledge. What I’ve seen over the years that sets data professionals apart from one another are a few things:
- Thirst for learning and gaining knowledge
- When a mistake is made; own up to it. Learn from it and move on
- Do not play the I’m right, you’re wrong game
- Rest in the fact that albeit how smart one is; you can always learn
Some of my best mentors have been ones that are constantly asking “What can I do to help you” instead of “That is wrong and here is what you have to do”. You cannot be afraid to fail; for in times of failure you can gain great knowledge. A fear of failure will cause you to not be innovative.
When my time with my group has gone there will be one thing I hope they can glean from me; do not be afraid to try new and innovative ways to accomplish resolutions.
Responsibility is a key component to any data professional. I was brought up in life that if you give your word than you better follow through. This doesn’t mean that bumps or obstacles in the journey will not crop up. I’m here to tell you they will; it is then when that first characteristic pops up and you communicate out to the necessary parties with updates on what is going on. Transparency is key and goes hand in hand with responsibility.
As I sit back and I look at any company, heck even consultants, for that matter – the most successful ones are ones that you can rely on and people deem the “go to” people. That’s great Chris, but how to I get there? Responsibility is something you have to show day in and day out. It falls in line with communication and you have to work on it daily. Once you become responsible you will begin to garner trust. Once you have trust then you can begin bridging gaps between teams, groups, clients, and much more.
For those that know me they know that I have a strong passion for what I do. I fall into the category of loving the work that I do on a daily basis and also have a passion for SQL Community. If you have a passion for what you do it will show and be a reflection of your work. To me I don’t have a job but a lifestyle; granted there are days that aren’t so rosy, but when we signed on to be data professionals we knew there would be late nights and sometimes exhausting issues. End of the day though do you enjoy what you do? Is it a passion?
One thing I think that has been beneficial to me is seeing the passion in team members. Being in a group, such as the one I am in now, we all drive and push each other to be a better data professional; having a passion for something doesn’t just mean having one from a technical perspective. It can be with your family, your hobbies, or your career. Whatever the case may be; find that fire from within and let it drive you to become as successful as you can be. Once you have passion you can become infectious and it takes just one to make a difference. Will you be that one?
There will come a time when every leader will have to make the call. This is something that trips a lot of people up; I will tell you as I am typing this that I have made some good calls and I have made some not so good calls through the years. Any good leader will show the ability to make a decision; and once you make that decision you live with it. You don’t go and point the fingers at someone else because when we do one should look at how many point back at us.
Set up some time throughout the week and look at the decisions you made. You don’t need to be a manager over a group to do this; see what were the good ones and what were the bad ones. Learn from them; if there are gaps then look for patterns. What could you have done differently?
If you lead the team you are on then you are the responsible party. Make the decision and then own it; even if you’re not the one performing the action to get the job done – you are the coach so to speak and the buck stops with you.
These are just a few characteristics that make up a good leader. Believe me this is only scratching the surface and I hope to dive into more; end of the day a good leader should be able to look at the day and say they gave it their all. Leave 110% on the court and you had nothing left to give – this isn’t always easy, but then again being a leader is not always easy.
Another set of 5 characteristics I’ll touch on in another blog post will be:
- Love your team
- Give praise
- Cast your vision
- Surround yourself with a solid work force
- Big egos can lead to demise of a team (including leaders)
Get after it and make it happen. You and you alone are the CEO of your career. Change is possible; you just have to be willing to make it happen.