It’s hard to be a good leader, let alone a great one. Whether you’re a servant-leader (a.k.a. ScrumMaster) or the single wringable neck (a.k.a. Product Owner), you know what I’m talking about. Leadership is hard work! It’s like bushwhacking your way through a messy jungle. On one side of what could only vaguely be described as a path, you’ve got the thorny undergrowth of a creative team and their needs. On the other side, you’ve got the rocky precipice of logical progress reporting that your own leaders want to see. You don’t have all the answers and you make a lot of mistakes.
If you’re like I was in my last Product Owner role, you lay in bed at night rerunning the day’s conversations through your head, picking yourself apart about what you could’ve said differently, friendlier, more forcefully, conciser, or not at all. 9 out of 10 doctors agree: leadership may be a leading cause of insomnia. Okay, I totally made that last part up.
Sure, maybe some people are naturally good leaders. But, for most of us, being a good leader is just like being good at anything else. It takes a lot of practice and the right tools. It takes trial and error. It takes continuous improvement. Yep, much like making better products, making ourselves better people takes hard work, focus, and feedback loops. Inspect and adapt. Inspect and adapt. But there are some shortcuts. The path to improved leadership gets exceedingly easier if we not only know what we’re striving for, but also what snares and behaviors we might want to avoid.
With a focus on pitfalls in mind, I want to share this great article which a photographer friend sent to me. Take the four common leadership mistakes that the author points out (deferring, blaming, bending, hovering) and start paying attention to how often you fall into these traps. With a little practice, you’ll start to catch yourself before you wander into that snake pit instead of after you’re waist deep.