As a Co-founder at Event Espresso and Event Smart, I function in many roles: project management, sales rep, technical support, accountant, marketer, counselor, etc. I’m faced with handling challenges from just about any area. This is where my formal education has come in very useful, by the way. Too, I am rarely fully informed about a situation and I often have more questions than answers. However, I often struggle with determining whether something needs my attention or not, now or later, whether my team is being distracted or mislead and how I lead our team through the situation. It’s not an easy task to be clear and level-headed, and the way I engage (or not) in a situation influences my team.
I enjoy road cycling, and am motivated to ride harder by the beat of Eminem’s song Toy Soldiers. More importantly though, I often ponder some of the [clean] lyrics:
I’m supposed to be the soldier who never blows his composure
Even though I hold the weight of the whole world on my shoulders
I ain’t never supposed to show it, my crew ain’t supposed to know it
Even if it means goin’ toe to toe with a ______ it don’t matter
I’d never drag them in battles that I can handle unless I absolutely have to
I’m supposed to set an example
I need to be the leader, my crew looks for me to guide ’em
If some ____ ever does pop off, I’m supposed to be beside ’em…
While Eminem intended to communicate his own expectations as a leader, I feel he adequately conveys my expectations for myself in my role professionally. I should also feel this responsibility in other areas of my life too, like at home.
I believe a certain level of transparency is good, but leaders also have a special responsibility to bridle our emotions that can affect others in a negative way. Our emotions can lead us and our team to over-emphasize details or over-react to situations that can influence us to focus on the wrong things and make the wrong decisions.
To help me be the leader I want to be, I have a sticky note on my monitor that reads: “Do I need to react? How should I respond?”
That message helps remind me to more deliberately decide whether I need to react to a situation and how to do so. If I do decide to engage, the second sentence encourages me to pause just a second to think about how I should get involved. I can’t fault my team for how they feel about a situation, but do I contribute in a positive or negative way? Do I clarify the situation? Do I calm the situation? Or do I add fuel and confusion to the fire?
It is rare when we immediately and completely understand a situation. Instead, we usually comprehend a situation gradually over a period of time. The challenge for us is to recognize when we are fully informed or lack the understanding to make a decision at all. Once we are more self-aware we can better understand the context and respond.
In software development you are faced with a nearly infinite number of possibilities, scenarios, conditions. So one of the challenges is determining what to actually worry about, what to be motivated by, and when to act. Are you scared and do you freak out every time your competition releases a new product or secures a big client? Are you debilitated with each bug in your program or when someone leaves your team? Do you need your team to react like you, and are your emotions rubbing off on them, or are they allowed to respond differently?
We can’t be so naive to think our emotions don’t matter. Some people will absorb emotions more readily, while other people will be more temperate. Whatever your decision making process, as a leader make sure that you are intentionally and skillfully applying the right positive pressure to encourage focus, or reduce pressure to diffuse a situation.
This doesn’t mean you can’t get emotional, rather it means you have to use emotion with skill and responsibility.
When have leaders in your life shown temperance or the lack thereof?
Lastly, are you a leader? Aren’t we all leaders, in our jobs, at home, school, church, on even on the road? And if you think you are not a leader, you underestimate yourself.