Leadership and (is) Communication and (is) Design

When asked by the NYT about what his focus on design has taught him about leadership, and whether or not good designers make good leaders, Scott Belsky said:

So much of leadership boils down to communication, and so much of communication boils down to design. I think most leaders overestimate the value of meetings and underestimate the value of visual aids to drive alignment. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a mockup or prototype is worth a thousand meetings. Leaders without a design background should recognize the value of partnering with designers rather than outsourcing to them. Having a designer at the table when solving product or communication challenges is a competitive advantage.

Stack Overflows with Answers

[This blog post is dedicated to Karl, Anthony, and Neil, in no particular order.]

Stack Overflow is a place where developers “learn, share their knowledge, and build their careers.”  Each year, they survey their community (the largest of its kind) to develop insights about everything from the dominant gender of the field (guess) to the ways in which developers use Stack Overflow itself.

I suggest you review the entire report, but I’m going to pull out three screenshots that I will most definitely reference when I return to school after Spring Break.  They provide answers to three Computer Science related FAQs that I hear from students and parents: How can I learn how to code?  How can I get started as a software developer? How can I find my way in the Computer Science field?

# 1

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SO’s analysis of the above: “Developers are lifelong learners; almost 90% of all developers say they have taught themselves a new language, framework, or tool outside of their formal education. Among professional developers, almost half say they have taken an online course like a MOOC, and about a quarter have participated in a hackathon.”

# 2

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SO’s analysis of the above: “Over 80% of respondents rely on Stack Overflow Q&A when learning something new. Additionally, developers understand the value of good documentation, as over 80% also use documentation as a resource when learning.”

# 3

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My analysis of all of the above: The path forward as a developer is pretty clear, but it doesn’t always involve formal classes in school.  It seems to involve curiosity, tenacity, a self starting proclivity, and a willingness to engage with communities like the ones advertised in the Stack Overflow survey results.

Management vs. Leadership

Here’s a a cliche busting thought worth noting from page 28 of Joseph L. Badaracco’s Managing in the Gray.

One of today’s reigning cliches [in business circles] puts the stereotype succinctly: leaders do the right things, and mangers do things in the right way.

This cliche is badly misleading.  It ignores the fact that the great leaders of history were often effective managers who got the process right. We remember Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and Nelson Mandela for their galvanizing speeches, heroic self-sacrifice, and the millions of people they inspired.  But serious biographies of great leaders show they understood the importance of process.  In meeting after meeting, over months and years, they poured time and energy into managing the movements and organizations that amplified their impact on the world.

For example, we might have never heard King’s “I Have a Dream” speech if he hadn’t spent weeks beforehand forging a coalition of six fractious civil rights groups and organizing what became the March on Washington.

Undoing by Replacing

There’s a great Theodore Roethke poem, called “The Waking,” that houses and repeats this line: “I learn by going where I have to go.”

I’ve written often on this blog about my own learning and how it is frequently driven by a network imperative — “going where I have to go” — followed by conscious synthesis of Internet ephemera into relevant and meaningful knowledge for my work.

Today’s version of the above started with this Dan Pink tweet:

When I followed the link, I “met” rocket scientist Ozan Varol, who encourages us parents to undo, by replacing, some of our standard questions and prompts.  Here are my favorites:

“What did you learn today?” vs. “What did you disagree with today?”

“What did you accomplish this week?” vs. “What did you fail at this week?”

“Here’s how you do that.” vs. “How would you solve this problem?”

“You can’t do that.” vs. “What would it take to do that?”

“Did you make a new friend today?” vs. “How did you help someone today?”

Here’s the link to the full post and Varol’s admission that the post is, in itself, a trojan horse.

I learn by clicking where I have to click.