Five Useful Tips for Emerging Leaders
30 July, 2020
After being in the Silicon Valley for 30+ years and working in startups as well as big companies, I accumulated knowledge and experience that I wholeheartedly want to share with emerging leaders and spare them the trouble and turbulences that came my way. I condensed my live-through into five key tips that should help emerging leaders set their goals, navigate their careers, and excel in their leadership roles.
It seems pretty clear that the folks that we lead have more respect for us if they know that we as leaders are humble and are constantly growing and learning. After all, I cannot take anyone where I have not been.
Remember we are never stagnant. We are either moving forward or moving back.
- It is a good idea to do a gap analysis on your skill set and then as a part of being vulnerable you could share your areas of improvement if it made sense to.
- I wish someone had told me earlier to create a career plan for myself. We create business plans and project plans for our employers but do we think to create a business/project plan for ourselves. How would we be intentional about our career, if we do not have a plan for it? Do not wait for your employer or your manager to create one.
Take initiative and be intentional because if you want to see the initiative in the folks, they need to see it in you.
If there is one quality that I think sets apart good leaders from great leaders it is self- awareness. What is self-awareness?
- According to the HBR article (https://hbr.org/2018/01/what-self-awareness-really-is-and-how-to-cultivate-it ) on self-awareness, there are two types of self- awareness:
- The first, which we dubbed internal self-awareness, represents how clearly we see our own values, passions, aspirations, fit with our environment, reactions (including thoughts, feelings, behaviors, strengths, and weaknesses), and impact on others.
- The second category, external self-awareness, means understanding how other people view us.
Even though most people believe they are self-aware, only 10–15% of the people we studied actually fit the criteria.
- Self-awareness is important because it is critical to know what weaknesses and strengths are — both self-evaluated (internal) and perceived by others (external). Once we know that, I believe we can validate the same with the folks that we interact with. It also shows a sense of humility and teachability, two key qualities that engender trust. In addition, we are then empowered to make changes and to build on our areas of strength as well as identify areas where we would like to make improvements.
- As a leader, I have found later in my career that as I was vulnerable about my mistakes with the folks that I interacted with, the more likely they were to relate to me. Moreover, as they experienced me as vulnerable, they were more likely to be vulnerable to me as a leader. And we all know, true transformation happens when we are vulnerable.
- It felt like as I was vulnerable with folks, they could see me as being “authentic” versus a leader that was just “towing the party line”.
- Leadership is just not about the title, the status, or the power. A leader should be bold, brave, and daring, but he must also be open, vulnerable, and sensitive in order to be able to lead wisely. Brene Brown
- Managing up is really about “Clarifying Expectations” with your manager. What are their expectations of you and what are your expectations of them? Too often I hear people say, (usually around performance review time) I just did not know that my manager expected that of me? I would say, do everything you can to take the initiative to clarify expectations versus “waiting on your boss”.
- In some cases, I know that I used to wait for “my boss” to take the initiative to have the chat because the story as I thought of it was “It is his job and not mine”, which makes me think of Pat Lencioni’s description of an “ideal team player”.
An Ideal team player is someone who is Humble, Hungry and Smart. Lencioni
- One of the mindsets that help is to imagine yourself at your current role as opposed to the role you just got promoted from. And at times, it helps to even get a better sense of the problems and issues that your boss may be dealing with by asking them what keeps them up at night.
Be a good listener
We think like managers and leaders and we have to give people that we lead a lot of advice, but I have found it is being a good listener is what helps people feel cared for and heard. Once they feel cared for and heard, they are more likely to let their guard down about what they are struggling with and more likely for them to come to you for help versus putting their defenses up.
“They care less about what you know until they know how much you care”.
Emerging leaders oftentimes set their focus on externalized measures of success, neglecting the importance of self-perception and human interaction with others. While data and numbers could showcase your progress as a leader, the innermost feeling of accomplishment is a far better indicator of your success long-term.
Zhenzhong Xu, Engineering Manager at Netflix, reflects on the problems that he faced as a first-time manager and explains why building trust is critical for team success.
Engineering Manager at Netflix
Colleen Tartow, Ph.D., Director of Engineering at Starburst Data, outlines how to create your own elevator pitch and how building a personal brand can benefit your career.
Director of Engineering at Starburst Data
Deepak Paramanand, Product Lead at Hitachi, explains how his early efforts in stand-up comedy and experience of interaction between a performer and audience helped him better understand his colleagues and customers.
Product Lead at Hitachi
Karan Jain, Engineering Manager at Doordash, recalls his own experience of joining a new team and explains how a carefully planned approach helped him gain legitimacy and respect.
Engineering Manager at Doordash
Peter Berg, Founder and CTO at Forward, recounts how he introduced processes for continuous improvement and thus creating a more psychologically safe working environment.
Founder / CTO at Forward
You're a great engineer.
Become a great engineering leader.
Plato (platohq.com) is the world's biggest mentorship platform for engineering managers & product managers. We've curated a community of mentors who are the tech industry's best engineering & product leaders from companies like Facebook, Lyft, Slack, Airbnb, Gusto, and more.