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Level Up - Issue #111

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Level Up

September 26 · Issue #111 · View online

Level Up delivers a curated newsletter for leaders in tech. A project by https://patkua.com. Ideal for busy people such as Tech Leads, Engineering Managers, VPs of Engineering, CTOs and more.


Finding leadership opportunities
I meet a lot of individual contributors considering what their future looks like. Many of those people ask, “How do I get to practice leadership if I don’t have a formal leadership role?”
I like to remind people that my favourite definition of leadership is, “The act of leading a group of people.” It’s all about taking action or what you do. Some might call it being proactive (taking action without being asked). After all, leaders won’t be given a task list so it’s good to start thinking about how you can have most impact by taking on a multiplier mindset.
Here are some tips I find myself often repeating:
  1. First, do your job well - Although this may sound obvious, I’ve seen people who want to take on more and more responsibility, but their own work suffers. You’ll get strange looks and reactions from teammates if you leave unfinished or your core work for them to pick up. Make sure you do a good job in your individual contributor role before trying to take on additional responsibilities.
  2. Look for gaps and take action - Listen to what your teammates are complaining about but not doing anything about. If you don’t see anyone taking action, that might be a gap that you can fill. This might be as small as organising a meeting to discuss a contentious topic or fixing an issue slowing everyone down such as that intermittent broken test, or a slow CI/CD process.
  3. Ask for more responsibility - Ask your formal leader/manager for something that they worry about but never find the time to solve. It’s a win-win as their worry is being addressed and you have an opportunity to do something you weren’t doing before.
  4. Explain “Why you” - If you start doing something that is on top of your normal role, don’t simply do it without explaining it to others. For example, if you organise a meeting to solve a team’s disagreement around an API design, some people might wonder why you’re doing and not the Engineering Manager or Tech Lead. It’s good leadership practice to start with why, and explain you’re doing it for the greater good and not trying to take over someone’s role.
  5. Finish what you start - If you start taking on additional tasks and leadership responsibilities, you’ll build trust in others by seeing them to completion. If you don’t follow through, you’ll damage trust and others will be hesitant to give you future opportunities.
Your challenge for this week:
  • If you’re an individual contributor, look for gaps that no one on your team is addressing. Could you take a small action to improve the lives of everyone on your team?
  • If you’re in a formal leadership/management role, can you highlight something on your to-do list you never get a chance to work on and find someone in your team to work on it? See if you can create a leadership opportunity for someone else.
Enjoy this week’s newsletter and be sure to pass it on to a friend or colleague.
Want to level up your technical leadership skills? Sign up for the online workshop, “Shortcut to Tech Leadership” or take a self-paced course at the http://techlead.academy.

Look for a gap that improves your teams lives when looking for a leadership opportunity
Look for a gap that improves your teams lives when looking for a leadership opportunity
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Tweets of the Week
Heather (@heatherGrey_) shares a great tip below 👇😅
heather🐭陳詠薰
renamed pager duty in my contacts so now at least I stay hydrated https://t.co/TGMP5GFab4
Read this thread 🧵 from experienced former Spotify engineering leader 👇
🅺evin 🅶oldsmith
Because there are so many poorly trained, poorly chosen, power-hungry micro-managing engineering managers in tech, it seems that to avoid that some folks over-correct.
Thanks for making it this far! 🤗
If you enjoyed this newsletter, please send me feedback and share it with others!
Want to level up your technical leadership skills? Watch out for future dates for the Shortcut to Tech Leadership online workshop, or check out self-paced courses at the Tech Lead Academy.
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Patrick Kua, Postfach 58 04 40, 10314, Berlin, Germany