You Don’t Have to be an “Alpha” to be the Tech Lead

If you’ve never worked closely with me, I bet you’d be surprised to learn that I write and think a lot about leadership, especially in the (unfortunately) testosterone-rich tech business.

I’m never the “alpha” in the room. I’m usually the last to speak. I’m not overflowing with my own opinions on things, and when I do I’m usually the last to offer them. I’m succint.

A few weeks ago I was at a meeting of managers where, for the most part, competition for The Alpha designation felt palpable, if unspoken, which is fairly common in Corporate America. There were about seventy of us arranged around round tables of seven to ten each.  At one point we were in the middle of a break out session after having just gone through a lecture on the value of being the last to speak.

The break out question was something like “what do you think the value of being the last to speak is?”

My table launched into their point of view immediately, with the most senior manager taking first. After everyone had their say, they looked at me and said, “you haven’t said anything about this.”

“I’m being the last to speak,” I said with a smile.

It was only then that the irony appeared. I deeply enjoyed the moment (maybe a bit too passive aggressively).

I think of myself as every much a leader as I assume they do. I’m not arguing here that I’m more effective just because I’m the last to speak, but I am arguing I don’t have to have an alpha style to be a leader. Neither do you. I have a different style, and I’m ok with that; if you’re not an alpha, you should be too.

I suspect (without evidence) that alphas are drawn to leadership because they see many models of “alpha style” leadership. You proably see a lot more of the alpha style than any other as well. Unfortunately, I suspect further that this discourages people who don’t have an alpha style or alpha instincts from stepping up to lead roles.

Don’t let it discourage you if you have a different style. You don’t have to be an alpha to lead. If you’re reading this blog, you have the most important prerequisite: a desire to lead.

Indeed, it would be great if we added a lot more diversity to leadership styles in your company and our society overall. If you’re unsure of yourself, reach out to me! I’ll try to help!!

Photo by Frida Bredesen on Unsplash

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