Chapter 3. Every Boat Needs a Captain

Even if you’ve sworn on your mother’s grave that you’ll never become a “manager,” at some point in your career you’re going to accidentally trip and fall into a leadership position. This chapter will help you understand what to do when this happens.

There are dozens of books already written for managers on the topic of management, but this chapter is for engineers who find themselves in an unofficial position of leadership. Most engineers fear becoming managers for various reasons, yet no team can function without a leader. We’re not here to attempt to convince you to become a manager (even though we’re both engineering managers now!), but rather to help show why teams need leaders, why engineers typically fear becoming managers, and why the best leaders work to serve their team using the principles of humility, respect, and trust. Beyond that, we’ll delve into leadership patterns and antipatterns, and motivation.

Understanding the ins and outs of engineering leadership is a vital skill for influencing the direction of the software you’re writing. If you want to steer the boat for your product and not just go along for the ride, you need to know how to navigate or you’ll run yourself (and your project) onto a sandbar.

Nature Abhors a Vacuum

A boat without a captain is nothing more than a floating waiting room—unless someone grabs the rudder and starts the engine, it’s just going to drift along aimlessly with the current. A software project is just ...

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