Apply leadership styles

January 23, 2020

The ratio of one architect to ten developers is a fact we need to keep in mind to understand what kind of leadership style can be applied in a sustainable way. Another fact we have to mention here is that developers report to line leaders, not to us, so our relationship is built on trust.

Given what stated above I think the style that better fits the environment like this is delegating leadership. To achieve it every team must have a high level of competence and commitment. To build these skills, training and knowledge transfer are the best tools we, as architects, have at our disposal and we have already used them a number of times with a good overall success measured by on-the-job observation and feedback collected during retrospective sessions. Although this hands-off approach has demonstrated good results in the long run, we have to admit that in some cases it created some mistakes and misunderstanding. For this reason, the training sessions now are tailor made and based on real world examples well known by a given team.

I noticed that training and knowledge transfer work well but require time and do not always cover all the details. To mitigate this problem, for a limited number of cases, a different leadership style has to be used. To meet deadlines in time a directing approach fits better because it reduces the chances of misunderstanding and allows the group to get straight to the goal and get the job done. Applying this style means having multiple and recurring sessions with a team, pair with team members during working tasks and provide extensive explanation on how and why we take every decision. This leadership style tends to micromanage the team’s work and does not scale. This approach has great short-term benefits on a single team but limits the time we can dedicate to other teams so it’s an approach that has to be used with care. It has a negative effect on the overall team’s morale because it limits creativity and innovation. If prolonged, it can cause stress, frustration, and burnout for both leaders and followers.

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Written by Claudio Maccari . Passionate developer and former windsurfer. You can read more about me here