Positive energy goes a long way to encourage innovation

Posted by Willy-Peter Schaub on Fri 09 September 2022

"Every person in your company is a vector. Your progress is determined by the sum of all vectors." - Elon Musk

After observing a lot of technical leads and mentors over the past 35+ years of bits & bytes adventures, as well as observing those they influence, I have compiled my short list of top and least effective qualities. Take it with a pinch of salt, read between the lines, and remember it is my list - my views.

Inspiration and leadership are based on a pull, not push model

When you approach the world with a "my way or the highway" mindset, directing, inspecting, monitoring, supervising, and in extreme cases micromanaging - the least effective level of leadership. Some common leadership anti-pattern signs:

  • Questioning everything - there is a fine line (tone) between being curious and questioning.
  • Dominating discussions - not allowing your team to self-manage and have vibrant discussions.
  • Micromanaging - double and triple checking everything, creating a no-trust environment.
  • Directing from behind - aka command and control.

The last point triggered an interesting discussion with Andre. Leaders who subscribe to servant leadership, are leading from behind, putting people first, and striving to empower everyone.

I witnessed true leadership in the early 80's when I served with a humble, but phenomenal leader in the military. He was always part of the team, usually observing, encouraging, and delegating at the front, at times supporting everyone at the back carrying extra equipment on long marches. His secret sauce was to empower everyone in our unit to take responsibility and make decisions.

There is a huge difference between directing and leading!

You cannot push as a leader, you have to lead, encourage, and pull the team to towards a common goal.

Negative energy sucks the life out of innovation


Someone who is negative or continuously criticizes everything and everyone, sucks the passion and energy out of a room like a raging fire consumes oxygen. What remains is a lonely lead in a toxic environment, surrounded by uncooperative engineers, and declining support for their goals,

Remove toxic influence and noise from your Twitter, LinkedIn, and other collaboration channels today!

No matter how dire the situation, if you lead with passion and commitment, you will find the support you need to move forward and be successful.

You are but a piece of the bigger puzzle - Union of PEOPLE!

"DevOps is the union of people, process, and products to enable continuous delivery of value to our end users." = Donovan Brown

Both Elon's quote, see above, and Donovan's definition of DevOps highlights the importance of the collective, the Borg, the people, the team.

A true leader extends trust and empowers every member of the team to self-organize, self-manage, and to make decisions. This ensures that the team and its members become self-sufficient and that they do not miss the leader if absent short- or long-term.

"I am the beginning, the end, the one who is many. I am the Borg.", the Borg.

Lead by example

Leaders who inspire me have the following qualities (and more):

  • They are curious and listen to their team and stakeholders to be informed on every individual, understand what can be improved, and to learn what they do not know.

  • They get their hands dirty and are part of the team, especially when the infamous 2AM production incident call is received.

  • They deliver on promises. Making promises and not delivering will rapidly erode the team's morale and support.

  • They value people and their work-life balance. Any discussion that touches on the work-life balance or a team member's welfare takes priority above everything else.



Here is a great quote:

"Building trust and taking care of your people is a mechanism for clarity." - L. David Marquet

Trust is earned through factors such as psychological safety, transparency, understanding of each other, fairness, involvement in decision-making, and a clear vision.

A few ideas to make your trust account grow:

  • Create a safe space for everyone to speak up and share their feedback.
  • Explain decisions and directives.
  • Inspire creativity.
  • Foster work:life balance.

Challenge your ecosystem

Last, but not least, you must challenge everyone to continuously learn, innovate, learn from failures, innovate, strive to be a tiny bit better tomorrow. Our common engineering ecosystem uses a platter of motivators and challenges to keep our engineers on their toes.

For example, I just challenged all our engineers with the following:


What are your experiences and thoughts on this topic?