Simpler isn't actually better 🔊

One of the most challenging aspects of technical leadership, or any leadership for that matter, is managing complexity. People, plans, markets, and software systems, just to name a few, are all wildly complex things. Finding ways to separate the signal from the noise, set reasonable expectations, and observe results can be daunting.

We’re admonished to “keep it simple, stupid,” and given heaps of tools that promise to reduce any complexity to its essential, manageable bits. Tracking systems, dashboards, dependency maps, OKRs, and box-and-whisker plots abound.

Yet history has taught us that seeking simplicity, while often well-intentioned, can be disastrous. To be the nimble and effective leader who can manage through complexity with ease, you’ll need to do one thing that many leaders never learn to do: let go.

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The live debugger for any situation 🔊

When a program doesn’t work and you don’t know why, the first thing you reach for is a debugger. Whether that’s a process-attached tool like GDB, the Dev Tools panel of your browser, or just a series of logger.log("now I'm here (3)"); statements littered through the code (my preferred method), you’ll soon have it figured out.

What if there was a way to apply the same deliberate, iterative approach to management challenges? Surprise, there is!

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Innovation isn't an accident 🔊

The pandemic forced a global, unexpected, non-consensual remote work experiment and the results are still being analyzed. But one thing that has become abundantly clear over the past three years is that many leaders don’t believe that remote workers can innovate.

The dominant theory advanced by these leaders is that in-person work leads to serendipitous moments and those unexpected interactions create unpredictable but positive outcomes for product development.

There are two key flaws in that theory:

  1. Innovation doesn’t require serendipity.

  2. Serendipity in the office is a myth.

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Create a "pit of success"

What if there is a way to lead such that success is inevitable? What if, as a side-effect, that leadership also improved trust, intrinsic motivation, and job satisfaction? What would it mean for you, personally, to know how to do that?

You’re probably thinking, “If that existed, everyone would be doing it, and we wouldn’t have any volatility, uncertainty, chaos, or ambiguity in our work!”

Well, it does exist, and it’s remarkably simple. But simple doesn’t mean easy, and anything this important takes time and effort to achieve. If you are up to the task, you can change the way you lead forever.

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Great leaders humanize 🔊

All companies beyond a certain size are sociopathic colony organisms that regard their employees as inconvenient gut flora (to borrow an expression from Cory Doctorow).

At some point in their growth, many companies consider whether to stack-rank employees by their performance ratings; or publish management guidelines referring to groups of humans as “resources"; or undertake vast re-orgs solely on the basis of metrics-based abstractions.

These efficiency- and profit-seeking behaviors will inevitably be suggested and discussed, though they are universally dehumanizing to employees.

Your highest calling as a leader is to remember that your company requires employees in order to function, that employees are humans, and that the only thing that differentiates your company from an “immortal paperclip-maximizing artificial intelligence” is how you treat them.

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