I had a direct experience a while back of how much my own attitude contributes to the success of my team. Like many others in IT, most of my experience is in “negotiation leadership.” This is the situation where I’m not directly in charge and have had to use my influence and power of persuasion to get things done. I’m used to motivating people and getting them excited so they want to participate on my project. I’ve had a “public face” I’ve shown to my customers and a “private face” I’ve shown to my team. I’ve also accepted less than what I really wanted, because volunteer labor only goes so far. Now that I’m on a project where I’m leading a team made up of non-volunteers, I’m finding I need to update my management style. It’s part of growing up as a leader. What I’ve learned is that my team needs me to be just as excited with them as I am with my customers. No private face – just the same one for everyone.
I came into a meeting not sure how we were going to meet our deadlines, and talked about scaling back and perhaps accepting less than what we wanted. I felt like I was reacting to the group’s nonverbal communication, the “we can’t do this, we don’t really support this project, we have too much to do” vibes. I left the meeting feeling discouraged. Here I’d promised something really great to our entire community, and now we can’t deliver? I moped around all the next day and had to have a colleague give me a pep talk. The next day, I met again with them, said we’d gotten off to a bad start, and talked up both the project and my faith in the team’s ability to deliver. The relief in the room was palpable — I never realized how much they needed me to be 100% enthusiastic and committed. My positive attitude was as much a necessary ingredient to our success as their technical skills.
Lessons I take from this: don’t project your own worries onto the team, and be 100% committed to the outcome. This can’t be fake – you have to really believe in the project and have faith in your team. People can tell if you’re just paying lip service to it and don’t really believe it. We can acknowledge that some things are hard, and at the same time have faith in our people that we can accomplish whatever we set our minds to. Constraints do exist, but we don’t have to let them stop us — they’re just a reason to be creative. Having a positive attitude is an essential component of leadership.