The Dead Poet’s Society, a Study in Leadership Development

O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.
~Walt Whitman

The final scene in the movie, “The Dead Poet’s Society” is a group of high school boys standing on their desks facing toward the rear door through which their beloved teacher, Mr. Keating, played brilliantly by Robin Williams, is exiting. A lamb sacrificed by the school administration eager to find a scapegoat after a student committed suicide. The scene began with Mr. Keating returning to the classroom to pick up his personal effects while his former students were studying poetry under a new teacher, the school administrator who happened to be the Pilate spearheading the sacrifice to appease parents.

Continue reading “The Dead Poet’s Society, a Study in Leadership Development”

A Leader Plants

Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds you plant. ~Robert Louis Stevenson

The number of seeds planted is a lead measure, one over which we have direct control. Harvesting, on the other hand, is a lag measure, proportionate to the planting, but governed by many conditions (sunlight, temperatures, precipitation) outside our direct control. Planting seeds is a controllable. Choosing where to plant seeds is a controllable.

If we seek to control the controllables, then we increase the effort we exert into planting, an event governed by our willingness to work hard. The harder we work the more likely the lag measure is to be in our favor.

For a leader, the seed we plant is time, our personal time investment in people, building into people so they may grow. We invest the time in listening to their hearts, invest the time to understand their unique gifts, invest the time to provide feedback so they have the opportunity to flourish. Whether a person chooses to act is completely up to them.

What controllables should you be controlling? What seeds should you be planting more of?

Agile Is Human Connection

If You Want To Go Fast, Go Alone. If You Want To Go Far, Go Together. ~African Proverb

Poetry and art and love stories and handwritten notes and Agile development are about human connection. Like poetry, an agile team eliminates extraneous process to produce a succinct, effective flow to their work. Like art, the agile team creates beautiful software that dazzles the user. Like love stories, the agile team brings their entire being to the party and does whatever it takes to ensure their team succeeds. Like handwritten notes, the agile team shows teammates in a tangible way they are valued for their contributions and, more importantly, as unique individuals.

Continue reading “Agile Is Human Connection”

A Leader Has A Why

Very few people can clearly articulate WHY they do WHAT they do. By WHY I mean your purpose, cause or belief – WHY do you exist? WHY do you get out of bed every morning? And WHY should anyone care? ~Simon Sinek, Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action

I didn’t always know my Why. Some days, I found myself slogging through the work day feeling mired in the muck of another 8 hours to be endured. Other days I would leave the office feeling energized, feeling I was making a difference, surprised that 10 hours had passed, anticipating being in the office the next day. Some days, I connected deeply with people and felt I had the best job in the world. Other days, I felt I needed to escape the office to avoid my soul from being crushed by vampire tasks sucking life energy dry leaving an emotional corpse. It was a roller-coaster with little predictability.

Continue reading “A Leader Has A Why”

A Leader Coaches

I am not bothered by the fact that I am unknown. I am bothered when I do not know others. ~Confucius

I am on somewhat of a career rebirth. After 17 years at the same company, I changed industries, changed roles…actually…returned to a role I had while working in India. It is a role I heartily enjoy, a role that ignites my passions. I am a coach, an Agile software development coach to be specific. I view the role more as a life / leadership coach. Agile just happens to be the framework in which I perform my role.
Continue reading “A Leader Coaches”

A Leader Stands For Something

If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything. ~Malcom X

I once had a colleague in the thick of a difficult project where teams were struggling to meet unrealistic expectations established by Senior Management after some hokey negotiating with the Project Management team. The project was in desperate need of transparent communication to Senior Management, the type of communication synonymous with strong leadership, the type of communication ripe with personal risk because sometimes they do shoot the messenger.
Continue reading “A Leader Stands For Something”

Agile: No Place for Leaders?

In 2005, I was introduced to Scrum by Mike Marchi a former colleague and current Agile guru. He convinced enough of us dirtied in the bowels of death march, waterfall software development that there was a cool new way to create software. His passion for Scrum resulted in a groundswell of grassroots interest. Prior to obtaining the support of those in the trenches, he convinced Management to bring in Jeff Sutherland to conduct a Scrum training, a gamble that paid dividends. During the course, we all became Certified Scrum Masters. The trajectory of my professional life changed during that two-day training.
Continue reading “Agile: No Place for Leaders?”