Gene Kim and the DOES17 Speakers Discuss Transformational Leadership

Written by: Electric Bee
1 min read
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We recently hosted a special episode of Continuous Discussions (#c9d9) , featuring Gene Kim and speakers from the upcoming DevOps Enterprise Summit San Francisco (DOES17) . The panel discussed the latest trends and data in Transformational Leadership. They shared how leadership matters for your DevOps success, some of the attributes of Transformational Leadership that impact your DevOps journey, and their own advice on how to be a great leader. The panel included: Dominica DeGrandis; director of digital transformation at Tasktop; Mik Kersten , CEO of Tasktop; Steve Mayner , Agile coach, mentor, thought leader and strategist at Scaled Agile; and, our very own Sam Fell and Anders Wallgren. Continue reading for some of their top takeaways:

After personally seeing transformational leadership fail, Kersten adds his insight: “I think one of the most interesting things is having witnessed organizations who had a transformational leader and failed. One of the main things I took away is they were speaking completely different languages. We need to connect this world of high-level business requirements with the technical language.”

You can often find leaders in different places, says Wallgren : “The true leaders are not always the people at the top, and they're not always the people at the bottom either. Sometimes you have a grassroots contributor who has the engine of innovation. Sometimes, it is one of the managers or one of the leaders who really pushes people hard.”

Kim shares statistics from the State of DevOps report to emphasize the importance of good teams: “Leaders don't do it alone, leaders need teams - teams with great technical practices, architectures and cultural norms. Teams with the top 10 percent of transformational leadership characteristics actually performed worse than the median. They said that leadership alone was not sufficient.”

There is a danger in leaving people out, warns DeGrandis : “It's so valuable when we see leaders engage everybody to be involved because when people aren't involved, they don't have any skin in the game, they don't buy-in, their ideas don't get expressed, and they walk away from the table unconvinced. And, when we have a department or really a few people who are unconvinced, then things happen half-heartedly and there's passive resistance.”

Mayner compares transformational leadership to servant leadership: “When you look at the things that are very empathetic to the follower, the care and concern for the individual, you see that in servant leadership. The communicating, inspiring, and motivating - those are very synergistic with charismatic leadership. What this body of knowledge sort of adds is a dimension of while all those things are great, it still needs to be aimed toward a purpose, and for our conversation it's the business results, and it’s the aim of the organization.”

Kersten mentions key characteristics of rising transformational leaders: “The people who can break into the business side of the conversation with either technical background or managerial backgrounds as leaders, those are the people getting promoted in healthy organizations.”

Wallgren looks at the challenges often caused by architecture: “What I'm seeing more often now is not necessarily failure, but challenges due to architecture and especially, ‘legacy architecture.’ It becomes the immovable object around which you have to figure out how to solve the problem. If you don't have the business and the technical planning how to fix that problem, to get to more loosely coupled architectures, then that becomes a huge barrier to success.”

Per Kim : “One of the top obstacles that have been verbalized in the DevOps Enterprise Summit community is when we ask ‘what are the obstacles in your way?’ One of the things that has always been up there is ‘how do I get others on board?’ And the implicit statement is the more conservative leaders. There is often an OPS leadership.”

DeGrandis emphasizes the importance of leadership that looks at the facts before sharing opinions: “Facts form the foundation of belief. Does leadership actually have the facts or is it people with strong opinions? Are we able to show and tell leadership the facts that they need to know in order to make the good decisions or is our organization withholding information because we're afraid to tell leadership that this event is happening or not happening. And I think that we need to take things for what they are before just spouting our opinion.”

Transformational leadership patterns can be effective no matter where the transformational leader is along their leadership journey, according to Mayner : “Connecting these leadership patterns are good not just in the vacuum, everybody wants to be a great leader. We’re finding in the research that it's these kinds of leadership behavior patterns that can really overcome those barriers that's causing the organizational change efforts to fail. And that's to me, the real powerful value.”

Watch the full episode:

Want more Continuous Discussions (#c9d9)?

We hold our #c9d9 podcast every other Tuesday at 10 a.m. PT. Each episode features expert panelists talking about DevOps, Continuous Delivery, Agile and more. Check out all past episodes and panelists here.

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