Home: responsibility and leaders

responsibility and leaders

It's not always easy to let other people take responsibility. I don't know if it's a part of what makes me dominant, or if it's a reflection of the way I am, expressing itself in my vanilla life. From time to time, I find myself occassionally taking responsibility for things that are not mine to take.

Case in point - recently, I found myself in the unenviable position of being the only full time IT staffer for my entire office for a week. It was a bumpy ride - we had two disasters that week, one on the Monday, and one on the Friday. In between, it seemed like I'd spoken to everyone in the remote offices that could have problems. By the end of the week, I was stressed, but at the same time, exhilirated.

You see - I was in charge. There was no one else to rely upon, so I had to make decisions. When there was more than one person to deal with, I was the one that had to prioritize. As the week went on, I was more and more comfortable being in charge. So when a project that my boss had been in charge of, before he went on vacation, started to run into problems, I found myself taking charge again.

The problem started when I started to take the project goals personally. I'd gotten myself so wrapped up in what was going on, in what other people needed to get done, that I lost my perspective. You see, that seems to be a periodic failing of mine. I see ways of doing things, and see that I'm the only person available at the time to do it, so I take personal responsibility for the success or failure of a task. And when I see that the task isn't getting done to what I consider to be an acceptable level, I start to try harder. When the task is as formidable, or as screwed up as this one was when I took charge, it's like trying to push water uphill.

Eventually, (and quicker than I used to...) I realized that I wasn't responsible - not really. The project had been specified by marketing, with no margin for error, and with a very (!) short deadline. The team had been staffed by my boss, and the technologies used (including three new ones that we'd never used before in a production environment) hadn't been chosen by me. In short, I'd been handed a pig in a poke, and it was up to me to make the best of it. We got the project to where it was working reasonably well, after putting in ridiculous hours for a week or so.

And then - my boss was back. He was back and immediately took charge of the team. And I found myself on the outside again. I hated the feeling of no longer being in charge. I found myself to be off balance, and disoriented for a while. Fortunately, I didn't have much of a role in the remaining portion of the project. I did my part, but I was astounded at my lack of motivation. It was like I'd run full out to get to the finish line, and then found myself in mid air, still pumping my legs.

I found myself turning around and watching him as he led the team. I still felt protective towards "my" people, and I had to remind myself that they weren't my responsibility. I shouldn't feel resentful that someone else was taking over from me, because I never should have been put in that role in the first place. (My role is in IT, but does not include responsibility for managing project teams. I'm supposed to take care of the servers and ensure that the users' computers are working properly.)

Once again, I found myself reminded of the differences between a boss and a leader.

A leader leads his team, and protects them from constant interference from their customers, and from constant scope creep. A boss accepts assignments and passes them on to his subordinates.

The leader encourages his people, ensuring that they get as much done as they can, while tempering his demands with an eye on their tolerance for more stress. A boss constantly pushes his people to deliver more, with less, in less time. A boss praises his teams accomplishments, then immediately makes more demands.

A leader says "No" to customers on occassion, like when they inevitably ask for more than the team can deliver. A boss gets pushed into a corner, and makes promises without giving the team an honest opportunity to give input.

A leader takes an estimate from his people and lengthens it for unexpected delays and developments. A boss takes an estimate and shortens it, because the customer needs it faster, or because he thinks his team is taking it easy.

When things go wrong, a leader works with the team to fix it, if possible, or takes responsibility for the team's failure, if not. A boss takes credit for success, and assigns blame for failure.

A leader encourages his people to balance work, family and leisure, for a more satisfying and productive life. A boss demands more sacrifice from their people, to the greater glory (and profit) of the company.

Being a leader is different than being a boss. I think I'd rather be a leader.


posted at 07:55 AM :: Comments (0)
filed under musings

comments on this entry


Email Address:


Add your comments:

Remember your personal info?

Note: Abuse the comments and you will be spanked!

Want to read more? Visit the archives »