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Keith Fuller, Blogger

May 8, 2014

4 Min Read

Giving critical feedback/Having difficult conversations

Delivering praise appropriately

How to set goals (for yourself and others)

Creating an improvement plan (for underperforming team members)

Holding effective meetings

Decision making (when to collaborate, consult, delegate, or dictate)

Setting priorities (urgent vs. important)

Assessing and managing risks

Teaching team members when to ask for help

Giving junior team members a chance to learn vs. Assigning it to the Expert

Having team members operate from their strengths instead of focusing on weaknesses

Providing motivation (intrinsic vs. external; how-to’s)

Putting your own oxygen mask on first (taking care of your own physical and mental health)

Communication styles (why you can’t talk to everyone the same way)

Setting expectations (with your team, with your boss, with external parties)

Why empathy is important and how to improve it

Your own growth and learning

Making the most of relationships with your leadership peers

Managing conflicts

Accountability and responsibility (what’s the difference; how to strengthen each)


The above is a list I disseminated amongst the leaders at a client studio recently. I wanted to get a feel for where everyone thought they could improve so I put together a medium-exhaustive collection of leadership topics and asked the leaders to rate them from 0 (I have this one mastered) to 5 (PLEASE I’M BEGGING TEACH ME THIS PLEASE).

Typically, companies will claim they need no help in the area of leadership development. Many have no training or mentoring and probably just feel defensive when someone approaches them (lest *gasp* they appear less-than-perfect). Some studios, I’m happy to report, actually go to great lengths to prepare people for leadership positions and even provide ongoing training for experienced leaders.

Regardless of the reasoning behind the “Nope, we don’t need help…we’re good” mentality, it’s extremely unlikely that everyone with leadership responsibilities at a company will report that they have mastery of all 20 items in this list. If you ask them for their own assessment, they’ll tell you there are things they could improve upon…things about which they’d like to know more.

Developers deserve the best leadership. If there’s room for improvement at your company…improve.

Here are three suggestions I'd like to make:

  1. If you’re in a position that allows for polling of leaders, use the above list and run an informal survey. Copy the list straight into an email and send it to people. It won’t take you more than 5 minutes. First, tell people what you’re doing and why, though. Spontaneous surveys with no explanation – especially if you take the survey and never learn the results – can be scary or demoralizing.

  2. Before you survey your studio’s leaders, give your own ratings as to what you think your leaders need. It might prove revealing to compare your numbers on what people need versus what they think about themselves.

  3. If you’re really, really bold, pick one of these topics that you’d particularly like to know more about and list it in the comments. Which topics do you think would show up most frequently?

Even if you can’t poll anyone else – and even if you’re not a lead – rate yourself on this list. Which items would you like to know more about? And to get you to think a little more deeply…why did you rate certain items higher than others? Have you been burned on them before? Or maybe you never thought about them as leadership aspects?

What do you, personally, wish you knew more about leadership?

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