The Art of Leadership

Before you ask, yes, it is weird that I’m reading a bunch of “management” books.

You can watch Michael Lopp’s career by following his various books. Start with “Being Geek,” the software developer’s career handbook. The move into management resulted in “Managing Humans.” And his promotion from manager to director and executive gets you “The Art of Leadership,” which is the book I recently finished.

My career has not followed the same trajectory. I continue to be an “individual contributor,” so why would I read this book?

Two basic reasons. First, Lopp is a great writer. He wraps the lessons around relatable stories, even if they don’t exactly mirror my experience. Secondly, to use a cliché, leadership comes from everywhere. I may not manage people, but I do have to lead. As a consultant, my whole job involves influence, persuasion and strategy.

In short, I don’t think you have to be a manager to get something out of this book, but if you like to sit in the corner and code all day, it’s unlikely to be your thing.

The book is structured into three sections, manager, director and then executive. Within each section, there are a bunch of small things that, done well, will result in great results (hence the sub-title). There are so many great parts that it would be easy to quote the whole book. I’ll refrain, but here are a few highlights and observations.

There are parallels with other books I’ve read recently. Chapter 15 “Saying the hard thing,” covers a lot of the same ground as “Radical Candor,” with many of the same positives.

The “faux zone” is very relatable. There are certainly times when I feel incredibly busy, but at the end of the day, I don’t feel like I got anything done. There are insights here that make me feel better about it.

A “Precious Hour” reminds us that being busy is not the same as being productive.

And, finally, this is so me: “I love to start new things, but I often lose interest when I can mentally see how the thing is going to finish, which might be weeks or months before the thing is actually done. Sorry. I’m getting better at this.” I remember I did one of those “type indicator” tests a long time ago, and one of the categories was “completer-finisher.” I immediately knew that I was the opposite of that.

As with all books like this, some of the suggestions I already do while others are not relevant; however, taken as a whole, there’s plenty of good advice.