Steve Yegge argues that the most valuable skill a programmer can master is the ability to market or brand ideas. I found out that at github there are no managers. Leading by example is really a matter of communicating your ideas and persuading others to follow by doing. Living in a world without management means leaders are really those who communicate ideas clearly and convince people to work on the idea.
One might believe that the only way to do this is by doing, but this method is problematic. If you are the one doing the work implementing your idea, then who are you leading? You lose the benefit of the team because you are the only one on the team.
Leading by example is doing the work and clearly communicating what you are doing. I’m terrible at doing this, yet I’d like to become a leader.
In order to change, there needs to be a clear metric. There should be a clear set of questions that advertising an idea by example should strive to answer. Here is a first pass.
- How do I help?
- Why do I care?
- What problem does it solve?
- Where do I get help?
The medium for the answers need to come by way of documentation, blog posts, wiki articles and any other mode of communication that helps to codify the idea and makes it easy for contributors to help.
Like I said, this is a first pass. My goal is to create a situation where in the absence of management, I can still become a leader. I’m sure this metric will evolve and that I’ll crash and burn a lot, but hopefully the iterations will eventually yield a greater impact in the work I do.