Leadership, Circumstances, Styles of Play

John Maeda has another post on leadership.

“In movies we often see two scenarios: 1) the leader is surrounded by her soldiers as a wall of protection; or 2) the leader is the one that is the first to rush into battle.”

I have trouble with war metaphors in a time of war but I get that success is built upon both protecting potential and creating it.

This sentiment reminds me of Garry Kasparov’s description of his chess play, attacking, aggressive, “where the player who makes the first mistake loses” versus a maneuvering, defensive style that “accumulates small advantages over time.”

I have played the latter, quiet game, advancing through various roles and towards an agile organization over years.

Still more chess pieces by andrew_mrt1976'sMy game was winning over peers, demonstrating success, removing many obstacles and flowing past others, educating executives as they became receptive to it, and, above all, showing by doing — proving value on our terms by delivering value.

But as Mr. Kasparov points out, circumstances may require us to adopt alternative styles and I am clearly in that situation now.

My company may soon be integrated into a larger one. In that larger organization, I have met conscientious, competent people. If the acquisition goes through, they will work to realize as much benefit as possible while managing risks and minimizing harm.

However, drastic change will need to happen in a short time and there are three very different cultures at play: that of our team, our current employer and our prospective new one.

Time is a factor in another way as well. My team cannot endure setting the clock back on our product and software development practices. Agile development means little unless it is in partnership with an agile business. We don’t want to just build things well. We need to invent, serve users and win in the marketplace. We need it all.

If circumstances call for a more pressing style of play. So be it.

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About Ken Judy

I am an executive manager, software developer, father and husband trying to do more good than harm. I am an agile practitioner. I say this fully aware I say nothing. Sold as a tool to solve problems, agile is more a set of principles that encourage us to confront problems. Broad adoption of the jargon has not resulted in wide embrace of these principles. I strive to create material and human good by respecting co-workers, telling truth to employers, improving my skills, and caring for the people affected by the software I help build.

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