Agile Leader

CAL II Grads—Leading By Example

January 25, 2022

In my younger life, my dad taught me many things, but among all those ideals, two of them resonated with me to this day: “Live a life where you bother the least” and “Always try and find a way to do something more efficiently.”

These words ended up being applied throughout my personal life and flooded my career: While I was a developer in the late ’90s, I figured there is a gap where someone else other than the developer should be speaking to the Project manager and other parties to gather requirements. But then, while I was a Business Analyst in the late 2000s, someone could do better at prioritizing and mapping the implementation. Then, while being a Product Owner I found myself thinking, yet again, how is it that there are so many leaders that want their organization to be flexible, yet resistive to change themselves.

And throughout my career, leaders would keep on asking me to lead others. “Hey, JD. You’re getting a promotion. Oh, and by the way: do you have any experience in people management? The Product Owners will report to you” was literally the words from my boss for my current position. Which was a complete surprise.

I’ve also noticed, although a self-proclaimed leader can be a good leader, I’ve seen an appointed leader being so much more effective servant-leaders, especially when chosen by his own peers.

Knowing what not to be, and seeing the need to lead those resistive leaders, I needed to learn how to be the leader I envisioned to be. And the first step was to understand and consciously knowing who you are as a leader first.

The CAL class taught me so many AHA moments. Amongst them:

  • Consciously knowing when your saboteurs are showing up:
    My highest saboteur with a 6.2 score was the Controller. No surprise: I’m quite the perfectionist due to my upbringing. Learning about this saboteur gives me a very much more effective way to see it coming and letting go.
  • Knowing the difference between coaching and mentoring and with whom:
    There is a huge amount of power when someone comes to their own conclusion. That’s what a coach does: guides a person to make their own decision without bias. Which is extremely hard. With that said, a good servant leader also needs to know how to mentor: Being coached, I realize, is not for everyone.
  • Knowing more about yourself as to which type of leader you currently are and which you choose to be in the future:
    This truly gives a better understanding of your goal and clearly defines what you’re shooting for. One of the Product Owners reporting to me always brings up a question in our interview process: “If you had one person you’d want to bring with you to this organization from your current one, who would that person be and why?” I’d want all of my Product Owners to say JD when they leave their current position.

Of course, as a former business analyst, data and knowledge aren’t just it. Tools to strengthen each of the areas are essential to execute the knowledge. Some of the ones that impacted me:

  • Discover Your True North
  • Leadership Circle Profile 360 Survey
  • Finding your and your team’s Core Values
  • Coaching exercises, vs mentoring with objective criticism from peers
  • Your Saboteur Assessment

I’m at a point in my journey where this CAL class has reinforced some of the knowledge and realization that this perspective is not a process, let alone a procedure. It is a core value and personal state of mind. To some, this shift is extremely difficult; to others, it may seem natural. This class will not just teach you to be a better leader at work; but, as it touched every one of us at the core, this will also affect who you are as a person. It looks like have a long journey ahead of me: Leading leaders by example, whether they are above, or below me.


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