Joel Spolsky on servant leadership

, 2008-12-29

With the holidays about over, I'm catching up on my RSS feed reading. This is an article from the beginning of December from Joel Spolsky. In it he talks about his brand of servant leadership and how he learned it:

He makes this point on page 2:

Getting glare off the computer monitors so that people can write code actually is my highest priority. 

As a leader, sometimes the best thing you can do is clear out all the minutae so the folks who work for you can get the job done. Actually, this is the case almost all of the time. That's the mission at Fog Creek: to write selling software. So if it takes him hanging blinds to get the mission done, that's the right call.

The type of leadership Spolsky describes in a lot of ways matches the way I was taught to be a leader:

  • Never ask your troops to do something you're not willing to do yourself.
  • Be ready to jump in and help when needed.
  • Think of your people before yourself.
  • Put your people in a position to succeed. 

The last one probably bears a little explanation. It isn't just about title and responsibility. It's also about tools and training and confidence and experience. Case in point: don't expect a person who's never done a difficult task before to succeed with flying colors. Prepare them with smaller tasks that build up their experience, confidence, and ability first.







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