Chapter 95. Willpower of Leadership

Mike Fisher

Willpower is an underappreciated necessity for leadership of large projects. Almost all engineering managers will find themselves responsible for implementing a large change. In some cases, this change will be a technical or systems level change, such as migrating from datacenters to a cloud provider or a redesign to shard databases. In other cases, this change will be an organizational or process change, such as rolling out a new personnel assessment process. No matter what type of project, if the project is large or impactful enough, and the people involved have lived with the status quo long enough, there will come a point where fear and uncertainty take hold. At this point in the project, what pushes the project forward is the sheer willpower of leaders on the team. As a side note, leaders exist at all levels in the organization and being a people manager isn’t a prerequisite to be a leader.

The way this fear and uncertainty often manifests itself is through a team member overcome with doubt that the project will succeed. In the cloud migration scenario, an engineer might raise concerns shortly before the cutover about something like the stability of virtual machines (VMs) under a production workload. Whereas performance could be tested and predicted, something like Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF) of VMs is difficult to ...

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