I’ve recently finished reading this book, Clever, by Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones, who work alongside Gary Hamel at the London Business School.
Gary Hamel I’m sure you know has written many fine words about a new style of management and is one of the world’s leading thinkers in business strategy and management.
It’s an interesting read and for me it manages to explain why the more empowering, servant form of leadership that’s proposed by agile development methods works better for so many software development teams, whether or not they’re agile.
The basic idea of the book is that the smartest, cleverest, most creative people in your organisation don’t want to be led. Or at least they certainly don’t want to be managed.
In an increasingly competitive world, it’s imperative to hire talented, thinking people – knowledge workers, or as this book calls them, Clever people – in order to be competitive and innovate in your chosen marketplace. You need more Clever people than ever before and you need a different style of leadership to get the best from them.
Don’t try to tell Clever people what to do. Certainly don’t try to tell them how to do it. Instead set a clear goal that excites them, motivate them by explaining the importance and benefit of achieving it, give constraints (for instance time and budget), and provide whatever support they might need, occasionally stroking their ego :)
Then stand back and watch the results! This is the essence of leading Clever people. Your role as a leader of ‘Clevers’ is to inspire and engage them, maybe guide them, but not to manage them.