Requisites of a modern Leader

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As always, the roles and requirements of a leader keep changing with time. Let me put forth the requirements of a leader in the current decade.

These are primarily meant (but not restricted) to the software industry.

Broadly they’re classified into 3 categories.

1. Traits and Skills

2. Behavioural approaches

3. Interaction approaches

Traits and Skills

Traits-wise Adaptability, self-confidence and persistence top the list of characteristics that one would like to see in a leader.

Skill-wise Intelligence, creativity and knowledge of the group are most important.

Some of the other useful characteristics demonstrated by highly efficient leaders are mental toughness, courage, ability to manage stress, ability to rebound from adversity and ability to seek out newer approaches (than being rooted in the past).

Behavioral approaches

Being good at both Consideration and Initiating processes.

Consideration reflects the relationships between the leader and followers to involve factors such as friendship, mutual trust, warmth, building rapport and communication.

Initiating is based upon the establishment of rules & regulations and systems that are designed to move a team towards pre-established goals.

Interaction approaches

The utmost importance of flexibility.

A leader just cannot follow the same style of leadership for every team and for all times. The styles have to change and adapt to people and situations. This is an extremely important aspect of leadership.

It is important for the leader to understand the nature of the team and to base his style based on the preferences of the team. Once he exhibits that flexibility to understand and adapt to a particular team member, that member responds with an increase in performance from his side due to the sheer respect.

Having said all this, it is noted that “Defining a leader is not an easy job”.  Success of a team is determined by many other factors too.

Also there have been successful leaders who haven’t demonstrated all these traits.

But examining these theories gives you a better chance to formulate a view of an effective leader.

Football and Software teams.. How different are they?

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Since there is so much going about football nowadays, I thought I’d also add a few things on my own..

I wrote about Teams and Leadership, last year, where I shared my fascination with the way football teams are organized and led.

Let me try to explain the organization style followed in typical Premier League Football teams:

They have a manager who’s responsible for everything that goes into the team. Success and failure, team’s culture, players, coaches, everything.

Then they have designated coaches for specific sections like team coach, goalkeeper coach, fitness coach, psychiatrist, etc. An example of this can be seen from Arsenal team’s staffing. In certain cases, I’ve also seen teams have a defence coach and an offence coach for backs and forwards..

Finally, they have a captain who is responsible for the team on the field. Along with the coach, he decides the various strategies for the team.

Football, being an interdependent team, requires this style of leadership structure where decisions are taken at different levels. Opinions of each members are important for the decision-making process.

In the right team, the three roles work in good co-ordination with each other. There are times when one of them is weakened, there other roles compensate for the lack of direction.

The nature of software teams are fairly similar to football teams. However, I’ve not witnessed this distribution anywhere in the teams that I’ve worked in.

There are reasons why this could be difficult with software teams:

1. Needs autonomy : Historically organizations have been averse to the idea of autonomy at different levels.

2. Specialization : With makeshift arrangements, its difficult to have that specialization and the right mix of the team.

However, I feel there is a special difference with respect to Indian Offshore Software development firms.

That difference is the “goal”. Most of the times, the playing team doesn’t have a view of the goal itself. This has been a major cause of concern of mine. The quality and contribution of the team is highly affected by the vision of the goal, which is missing with the offshoring business.