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What does leadership mean to me?

This blog is an adaptation of a lightning talk I did as part of a leadership series run by Andy de Vale for Space 48, I managed to learn a lot about myself and others going through it and it was a really enjoyable experience to be a part of so again, I want to give a big shout out to Andy for putting the sessions on.

The first point I wanted to talk about was around movements and buy ins. During one of the early sessions, we watched a video of a guy dancing in a park on his own before other people spotted what he was doing. Some people may have thought he looked stupid but slowly people began to join in unti there was a massive crowd of people dancing with him.

I watched this video a few times and the more I thought about it, the more it resonated with me and really opened my eyes to what it means to be a leader.

I realised that a leader doesn’t sit back and watch things happen, a leader is someone who can start a movement and gain buy in from others to support that and move forward together working towards a common goal.

That got me thinking about where I’d seen that before in practice and Dan Davies was an example that came to mind.

When I joined the company 18 months ago, me and Dan were huge advocates of CSS Grid and since that point I’ve watched him push the implementation of that into the work that the frontends were doing, examples included here. Fast forward 18 months later and we’ve got new sites entirely built in Grid live alongside a pattern library and prototyping system which of huge benefit to both the client and those doing the site builds, both of which have so far been really successful and are ever improving.

I think being able to start a movement is one thing but being able to push that forward and get people to buy into it is something that displays strong leadership.

Another point I picked up on came from Simon Sinek’s “Why do good leaders make you feel safe” talk where he said: If you get the environment right, people will do great things. I’ll admit when I heard this for the first time, it felt a bit cliche but the more I listened, the more my outlook changed.

He went on to talk about how trust is a feeling as opposed to an instruction and how a leader should set a tone by putting others first and doing their best to have things in place to allow their team to succeed.

This got me thinking about the team I work with on a daily basis, Team Rocket as we’re currently known, and the problems we’ve overcome on projects over the last 6-12 months and it became clear to me how much the environment helped with those situations. I’ll admit, I go to my Project Manager pretty much everyday with at least some sort of problem, it’s very rarely good news if he gets a message from me but when we work together on it, we always come up with a solution or a path to take to get it resolved. In the past I’ve always had a fear about admitting I didn’t know something or couldn’t complete a task but with our team environment being as open and cooperative as it is, there isn’t that fear anymore. I’ve come across my fair share of problems on client builds over the past 18 months but I’ve always had people both within and outside of the team who I’ve been able to fall back on for help and together we push through it together and create pretty good things from it.

Being able to reflect on that has shown me how good the other people in my team are at being leaders and keeping a really good cooperative work environment which allows us to consistently deliver work and keep clients and ourselves happy.

So to summarise this ramble, I’ve learnt that leaders shouldn’t be dictators, they should create a movement driving towards a common goal and if the environment is right, people can create great things.

Take a look at some of the great work that Dan (@danjdavies on Twitter) has been doing over the past few years, you certainly won’t be disappointed: https://www.dan-davies.co.uk/work

Andy (@andydevale on Twitter) runs a organization called Workvisible which aim to help companies learn more about themselves, kick their bad habits and grow themselves into a bigger and better version of themselves, Andy’s time is definitely a brilliant investment for any company: https://www.workvisible.com/