Becoming a Technical Leader

I forget where I stumbled upon this book, but I'm happy I did. Most leadership books have a tone of superiority, almost with a sense of being talked down to. What I liked most about this book was that it was easy to read and understand, while at the same time imparting valuable lessons and bringing up interesting questions.

Instead of the usual leadership book theme of lead the charge, understanding organizational issues and how to hire people, Becoming a Technical Leader actually starts with the reader. It asks the question, why do you, as a person, want to become a leader? What makes you actually valuable to an organization and why would anyone in their right mind actually follow or listen to anything you say? Every chapter has some central tenet that actually forces the reader to become introspective, with a list of questions at the end of the chapter to reinforce and clear out ideas. It's like Math homework without a correct answer in the back to the chapter.

For example, one chapter examines how people grow in skill and as a person. We all like to imagine that growth if linear, like y = mx + b, or if for some period of time, exponential growth. I felt the exponential growth curve when I first entered graduate school, feeling like a complete idiot  but at the same time learning so much everyday that I was on overdrive. The first time I was ever able to build a JIT compiler, assembling the add eax, ebx instruction was such a miracle. It felt exciting to learn so much and accomplish so much. However, by the time I wrote my fourth JIT compiler, I felt a plateau, and needed some stimulus to find new challenges. This book details the growth trajectory so I learned what signals to look out for at each step of the growth stage. 

However, the best part of the book is simply how easy it is to learn something about myself. When some discussions come up, I become defensive and have to become aware of my defense and shut it down. Others, like a good friend, disagreements come easy and no hard feelings erupt. It's simply a trained muscle of socially grace. That's what's so amazing about this book. I respect the author as a leader through his writing, as he tries to give me constructive feedback on how to improve myself. 

That's really the crux of the book. Instead of being a another outward looking leadership book, this book forces introspection on why and what to improve in yourself to become a leader. Not only did I learn about leadership skills, I learned a lot about myself. Highly recommended.