What is leadership in an intellectual team?
Deepanshu, or Deep, is a DevOps engineer with 15 years’ experience. Keen to develop his leadership qualities, Deep asked if he could shadow Head of Engineering Ian Andrews. Ian agreed, but on one condition: that he could shadow Deep as well.
Here are their telling insights into each other's roles.Read more
Deep, why Ian?
For me, leadership means setting an example, not simply giving instructions. And it means making clear that you are working with people to reach common goals. I’m impressed with Ian’s management style and his leadership skills. He gives his team guidance and support, but also trusts them and gives them the space to get on with things.
Ian does that ring true?
I think good leadership involves lots of healthy debate, so it’s useful to demystify the notion that it’s somehow a smooth process where people do what you tell them, and similarly that meetings are always structured and don’t involve gnarly issues that we don’t have the answers to.
Ian what are you hoping to achieve with reverse shadowing?
A good leader must know what the day-to-day issues are for the team, and sometimes it’s too easy to lose sight of that. In the tradition of servant leadership, I need to have a rounded view of the utopian vs the reality and understand what I’m fighting for.
We’re also keen to shift the old business model of leader/follower. In intellectual environments like this, your team should know better than you on their areas of expertise. So I need them to lead and my leadership needs to understand and allow that.
Deep, how did it go?
Really well! I shadowed Ian for four days and accompanied him to quite a few meetings, including Central Technology Office Senior Leadership Team, Nationwide For Business (that one was in London), Business Risk, and Engineering Capability. I also sat in on a few 1-2-1s.
What did you learn?
Ian taught me how you need to solve problems from somebody else’s perspective instead of forcing your solution on them. So sitting down and really understanding someone first. Also, now I know what he does for us behind the scenes. There’s all the transformation from tech practice to CoE, with strategic thinking, road mapping the vision and translating it into how we are working with squads. Then managing so many people. I had no idea how busy he is!
What was it like having Ian shadow you?
To begin with, terrifying! I thought I might expose all my weaknesses so it felt like a risky decision. But he gave me excellent feedback after my meetings, especially about how to deal with senior stakeholders. For example, if coming to them with a proposition, make sure you are really clear about what it is and give them a road map so they can see how you plan to implement it.
Ian, what was it like being shadowed by Deep?
Having Deep in the room reminded me to stay on point in terms of what’s important, i.e. why was I saying what I was saying – whether to a group or an individual. It also made me remember how much people don’t know about certain areas of the business, for example we had a meeting about new controls in Risk. Deep had no idea that we were working on this.
What was it like shadowing Deep?
What was fantastic was seeing elements of our Engineering transformation in action, in this case our DevOps pipeline. We’re delivering tools that are making the squads more efficient and I was blown away by Deep’s expertise and dedication to delivering value.Read less