The Power of Person-Centric Leadership in Tech
Unlocking Potential: The Impact of Person-Centric Leadership in Tech
In the dynamic domain of technology, the role of a leader transcends beyond mere management; it becomes an art of understanding and nurturing the diverse mosaic of individual personalities. My leadership journey has been sculpted by a personal commitment to person-centric principles, where each team member's unique character and needs are the keystones of my approach.
Embracing Individuality in Leadership
Each person brings a distinct set of interests, risk appetites, and social preferences to the table. Recognising and respecting these differences, I tailor my leadership style to resonate with each individual. This adaptive approach has allowed me to foster a work environment where everyone feels valued, challenged, and given ample space to grow and flourish.
This isn't to say that I don't make wider team-related changes; I simply put more focus on the individual as a priority.
Overcoming the Challenges of Diversity
One of the most daunting challenges of this approach is encountering personalities that are less inclined towards interpersonal interactions, of which there are quite a few within the software engineering scene.
Some team members prefer to remain focused on their tasks, viewing additional interactions as distractions. My strategy in such situations is to respect their work style while ensuring their well-being and addressing any concerns they might have. This approach often leads to a gradual building of trust and rapport.
Other challenges I have faced over time includes working with individuals who are neurodivergent and hence require that tailored approach even more. In such cases, I can work with the individuals to engage, discuss and explain things in a way in which they can process and adapt. If anything, it highlights how a person-centric approach to leadership makes things easier across the board rather than simply using a single approach with everybody.
A Pivotal Leadership Moment
A defining moment in my management career is one occasion where I had recently joined an existing team as their new team lead. Quite a few of them had approached me in 1-1s mentioning that the behaviour of a certain individual external to the team was causing them to feel additional, unnecessary pressures from a delivery expectation standpoint. Having collated numerous examples of the individual targeting my team, I spoke with them about the issues and managed to get to the bottom of the problem (in a civilised way of course).
Without going into too much detail, the respect that the external person had for the team improved and as a result the morale of the team was massively improved. They no longer felt targeted and ultimately felt that I had their backs where it was due.
The Organisational Impact of Person-Centric Leadership
My inclination towards prioritising people over technical prowess has repeatedly proven to be a hit for the teams I've led. By creating an environment of psychological safety and support, my teams have consistently excelled, demonstrating high levels of productivity and engagement. This people-first approach has also had a ripple effect, contributing positively to the broader organisational culture and driving innovation across the board.
This isn't to say the approach is a must for everybody as each leader has their own style of working, but my approach has always worked for me.
Guidance for Aspiring Leaders
For leaders aspiring to adopt a person-centric approach, empathy should be at the heart of your leadership philosophy.
Understanding your staff is key to unlocking their greatest potential. For example, Joe Bloggs might hate pair programming, which initially comes across as he's just resistant to working with others. By putting yourself in his shoes and understanding the reasons why, you can discover that in a previous company he was ridiculed by some peers during pairing sessions and has a lot of apprehensions about it. Off the back of this discovery you can tailor your approach to working with Joe on how to make him feel comfortable and introduce him gradually into the team's processes of pairing and mobbing.
Although a contrived example, it demonstrates the importance of not just making blanket assumptions.
Work with people, not job titles.