Software Team: Management or Leadership? - Part II

In Part I of this two-article series, we discussed how leadership emerged from management to meet the challenges imposed on routine processes in today's world of change. We saw that while management is about predictiveness and processes mainly, leadership is about people's buy-in and change. In this article, we subject the our process of software development to both cultures (management vs. Leadership) and see which one would work best.

Our process is, unarguably, a complex one,  I discussed that fact on techstamina in the article Understanding Complexities in The Software Process. Among the complexities that I raised in that article, two stand up in the context of this discussion.

For one thing, and that's above all, we are a People-oriented industry. And people have their talents, differences, biases and attitudes. The ability to harness all that in a team and redirect it for the good of the process is even harder sticking by any process on its own. The level of buy-in that one needs in such a case exceeds for sure the process as a source of power on people. Taking into consideration the nature of people in the industry, usually young creative and liberally thinking enthusiasts, one can feel that the process alone can't lead in this industry, that says in simple English, that the leadership paradigm wins.

Besides, those who "lead" projects in software development face one more extra, and probably more challenging character in the process: that is the customer. In my book, The Software Leaders' Guide: Your way to effectively lead Software people, I cited the skill of influencing  our customers unnoticably and called that the Subtle Leadership. So the leadership challenge in the sofware project encopasses both  the team and the customer. Hence, sharpening your skills with that subtle sort of leadership on customers, gives leadership an edge on management. Just let it work for you! 

For a second thing, We must be able live with Change

The most eminent source of change is Requirements, be that due to some mis-engineered work in the first place, or by actual change in a process that we work on especially when the development spans longer than the lifetime of the process in the real world: and don't laugh! Under the illusion  of predictiveness, in the waterfall culture, these things happen. In all cases, those who lead development, whatever the SDLCM (System Development Lifecycle Methodology) they adopt, must be "agile" enough to adapt their process and team to the change, if that change is real and representing a true need for a system to work. Again, this suggests minds and skills that can play with a process, adapt it and not just follow it and measure its deviasions from a plan.

Here again, is where leadership shows some merits over folkloric management styles.

One last, though very humane and therefore software applicable point: Leaders are enablers, while managers are controllers. The enablement inherent to the leadership paradigm is very nourishing to the spirit of the team. Leadership, when properly practiced, is one of the main drivers for the morale of the individuals and the team. That's one of the essentials of making people able to not only produce, but even create under the distressing environment in today's business.

As we can see, the successful transformation from management to leadership, be that for the organization or the individual, remains one of the major relative advantages and key success factors in today's world of Business As Unusual.