At RubyConf AU the other week, I caught up with a past workshop attendee, now a staff engineer. They told me their largest struggle is when to lead with authority and when to lead with influence.
Authority is power explicitly assigned to someone over something. If you lead the project, you have authority over matters to do with that project. Same goes for a team you lead.
Influence is the indirect use of power to affect someone or something. It depends on reputation, credibility, or position. With one or more of those, you can influence people and the decisions they make.
These are not exclusive options. A project leader can influence matters relevant to a project they are not directly part of it. Likewise, a person can influence projects and teams over which they have no authority. So how do we know which to use and when?
Leading projects and initiatives are examples of leadership from authority. You are in charge of delivering a project, now you get to tell people what to do! Same goes for a cross-team initiative you're leading to improve developer experience. These are explicit leadership situations.
Influence applies better to implicit leadership patterns. Like role modelling behaviour, or supporting colleagues in their own projects and initiatives. Making the case for long-term changes in culture or process requires influence.
Which do you use most frequently? And how does it work out for you?
After six years working together as a small engineering practices consultancy, we opened up a food and drinks tab at Hopscotch in Southbank Melbourne last month to catch up with Blackmill friends, workshop attendees, and clients. We had so much fun seeing everyone. Thank you to those who were able to join us. We hope that you enjoyed the evening as much as we did. And for those who couldn't make it, we hope to see you next year!
Ruby Conf AU was back in full swing last month at the Melbourne Convention Centre with a line up of great speakers, sponsors (including us 🖤) and social events. We know from experience that organising a conference requires many hours of volunteering and dedication to pull it off. Kudos to the organisers for making it happen after the in-person experience drought with COVID. We thoroughly enjoyed seeing the Ruby community come together to learn and support one another once again.
Our book club had an unusual session recently. As we finished Inclusive Design Communities, we were super glad to welcome the author, Sameera Kapila, to join us for a conversation about her book, her writing process, and explore some parts of her book more deeply. Sameera was incredibly generous with her time and thoughts. It was a real delight.
It was also the first time we've ever had an author join to discuss their book and we were very glad we were able to make it a fun experience for everyone. Thanks so much, Sameera!
Need some tools for delegating? Join us for one hour as we uncover why delegation is so important. We will explore the concepts of trust and control, enabling autonomy, and how delegation does not equal abdication. You will learn tips for delegation, and how, what, and when to do it. Lastly, we will introduce a delegation script to help make delegation a reality for you.
We had another wonderful group of people who joined us for our Leading Engineering Teams this month. Thank you to those who participated! We hope that you enjoyed it as much as we did and good luck on your leadership journey. We can't wait to do this again so if you (or a friend) want to become an effective engineering leader, join us on May 22–25th for our next workshop. Early bird tickets are available until Friday this week, March 31st, so you better hurry! https://blackmill.co/workshops/leading-engineering-teams
Currently, I am a startup CEO and Co-founder at Kaleida. I have a background in software development and engineering leadership, and I am using all that knowledge to create a product that helps leaders in tech to build diverse and high-performing teams. Having been in technical roles for many years, this is the first time my role focus is non-technical (even though I am still writing code!). My main focus now is founder-led sales, so I get to chat to industry peers all day about the challenges they face trying to retain staff and build diverse teams: which is what I am most passionate about. I am surprised how much I love doing this, having never seen myself as a sales person before.
Right now, everything is new. Every few weeks I find there is another gap in my skill set I need to fill — and quickly! So the most challenging thing changes from week to week. Right now, I would say raising capital in the current financial climate is exceptionally challenging: though I am confident we will get better at this too, and soon be successful.
For years I have been part of an underrepresented group in tech. I have seen women and minorities pushed out of this industry due to unconscious bias and toxic workplace cultures. This leads to the creation of toxic tech that only serves a very thin-slice of the overall user-base, and tech should be for everyone. One reason women leave tech at nearly twice the rate of men is they take longer to get recognised and promoted, if they get promoted at all. We now know this is called the "Broken Rung Effect" and I am passionate about fixing this. In 2018 I started a community group called Tech Leading Ladies, which aims to bridge the gender gap in tech leadership. It is my hope this will create a virtuous circle of women succeeding in leadership roles where they can build inclusive cultures that enable underrepresented people to access the same career growth opportunities.
Building our business! In 8 months we have managed to build a product people are paying for and getting value from. This is a huge achievement.
Working for a large corporate with mis-aligned values
Firstly, I talk openly and honestly with my co-founders about how I am feeling and what's causing stress. We all feel overwhelmed from time to time and worry about what the future will bring. We support each other to get through this and it's much easier when you have people around you who can put things into perspective. I also need to exercise to keep a clear mind. I run and do yoga to keep myself balanced. During lockdown, I started early morning swimming in the bay with a group of women — I am invigorated by the cold water and inspired by the incredible people I have met. Morning swims make everything better!
Always be learning new things, get comfortable with being uncomfortable, and assume good intent from others.
It may come as no surprise given my previous answers, but equality for women and a shift in the balance of power. Specifically, put an end to domestic violence against women and children. I wish everyone could be safe, happy and healthy in their own homes.
To build a thriving business that adds real value and makes an impact to the gender imbalance in tech.
Thank you for showing an interest in our newsletter and we hope that you enjoyed the read. Feel free to contact us if you have any feedback, a burning question, or just a recipe that you would like to share.
Until next time, keep learning!
Everyone at Blackmill