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Why Leadership Matters

We were reminded recently about a post that Daniel Goleman wrote in LinkedIn several years ago entitled Leaders are made, not born. For those of you that are not familiar with Daniel Goleman, he is the author of Emotional Intelligence, one of the most influential books in psychology in the last 50 years. The premise of the post is that while some people may be born leaders, the qualities that combine to create an effective leader may be learned. In high-tech fields, it is a well-known caricature that many stellar performers are introverted and do not naturally feel comfortable in leadership roles. In other words, high performers in the technical arenas are considered to be “geeks”.

The interesting aspect of this post is the assertion that nurture can overcome nature. If the desire is present, then innate tendencies to stay in your “comfort zone” may be overcome with the proper training, coaching, and practice, practice, practice. There are many interesting responses to Goleman’s original post on LinkedIn, and these responses detail personal struggles and triumphs while learning leadership skills.

We have seen this transformation time and again in our design services practice. There is a qualitative difference between developers/programmers/coders, and design services consultants. Design services consultants are being continually evaluated, and must provide not only exemplary technical service but also project leadership. Design services consultants are the experts, and as the experts, they are expected to lead others down the most effective and efficient paths to get the job done. Developers are expected to be proficient technically, but often times they have less than stellar communication and leadership skills. It is not uncommon to “hide” developers with abrasive personalities from customers.

At nFocal, we strongly believe that leadership and communication skills are the keys to effective and successful design services engagements. While technical skills are also important, we consider technical abilities to be “tablestakes”. The real difference makers are effective communications and strong leadership, and these are the difference makers that we bring to each and every client engagement.

So are design services consultants a product of nature or of nurture? Our experience is that consultants are created not born, and some people need more nurturing than others to acquire the requisite skills. In the end, it is all about passion and desire. Nobody can dispute that personal transformation is hard, very, very hard. A successful transformation – in this case adding stronger communication and leadership skills to a personal toolkit – takes lots of practice. We have seen that transformation with developers that have joined our organization, and we have seen it with employees of our clients. As a design services company, our immediate success hinges upon employing a superior level of communication and leadership skills. But don’t fool yourselves: to a significant degree, everybody’s success in life is affected by their mastery, or lack of mastery, of these crucial skills.


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