David Housman

The Responsibilities of Leadership


Reflection after “Managing Software Professionals” Course taught by Professor Gladys Mercier. Part of Master of Science in Software Management curriculum, Carnegie Mellon University, Silicon Valley.

The application of the mechanisms of personnel management depends on more than a pass/fail assessment. It should reflect what you stand for, as a company, as a team, and as a manager. At Carnegie Mellon University Silicon Valley, just about every class has a team component. In that time, I developed beliefs about how teams worked, and what I should contribute. In my first class, I looked for a grade. Next I focused on the goals of my teammates, and still later I focused on individual growth. I accepted that this may come at the expense of the rest of the team. When the project was over, I realized that personal satisfaction and individual growth and team accomplishment are not always the same thing.

Leaders have a responsibility to balance the outcomes of an endeavor, and to make all participants aware of the outcomes of the decisions being made. A leader will repay the trust that others have placed in him.

The primary responsibility of a leader is to people. It is a responsibility to facilitate an  environment where the participants can derive pride from what the team has accomplished.

A leader must take ownership for his role in producing an outcome, both as a contributor and as a leader. Leaders will find that your performance will improve as a result of introspection coupled with taking responsibility for what one did or did not do.

Ours is a world comprised of shades of gray. There is no one mantra that will result in success. Extreme bias toward any single rationale necessarily results in poor tradeoffs. Alternatively, the absence of conviction may result in running an organization that can do nothing more than ebb and flow with the tides. Above all, a leader must pursue moderation. Black and white thinking is too simplistic to account for all of the subtle shades of reality.

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