We like things to come fast, done in a day, home for dinner, sitting by the fire, reading our book.
Job well done.
Some tasks can follow this pattern, some tasks can be done in a day, leadership is not one of those tasks and there is no grand event that dictates that you are now a leader.
Managers get up in front of their team and tell them where they are going to go, Leaders get up in front of their team and take them on the journey of where they are going. That journey does not happen overnight, it happens through a litany of many, many small interactions that when looked back over the course of a project, month, release, year, etc you can see the missteps or cues that were taken to get you there.
We “promote” developers to areas of responsibility and Team Leadership with no concept of the task and their first inclination is to get control of the situation – What should I be doing? Who should I be monitoring? How does their work now reflect on me? – when in reality we should be encouraging the informal bonds of leadership to take hold without requiring a formal title change.
If we don’t help them in this journey, how do they learn otherwise, they go direct to management.
You want to lead? Then build a team for a project that is based on respect, ownership, passion and commitment that does not require you to have a formal title change. You can do it, no one is stopping you, take the initiative and lead the charge. But if you want to manage a team, this is much more difficult, management requires the formal agreement that you have a title and you must make sure X is completed and that your team is in place to accomplish whatever tasks lay before you.
In short, Leadership is earned and does not require an application to be filled out, it’s always there, always waiting for someone to jump on board and take the reigns. Management is something you apply for, you control, your team’s obedience and acceptance is enforced through your title, not your actions.
You can be a leader and a manager or a manager and a leader, but make no mistake – the path to being a leader is the harder of the two; the one with less certainty but more possibility and less control but more opportunity.