Pouring over our thousands of nomination submissions that detailed the attributes of top performing individuals in the software industry, we found that many top performers were able to generate a tremendous amount of energy on a consistent basis both for themselves and for others. Such energy was palpable and extended to all around. It may seem obvious that energy is the source from which all activity flows but there is something different about the type of energy that top performers generate.
A spirit of positivity is contagious and when directed towards a clearly defined goal, teams dramatically increase the likelihood of achieving such goal and perhaps even ahead of schedule. We found through nomination commentary, that individuals who were thought of as great leaders exhibited a positive energy that permeated their teams. In environments where bars are set high and nothing is easily accomplished, a positive outlook and continuous encouragement were critical to keeping the team engaged and moving forward despite setbacks and plateauing progress.
Compare that to an individual placed in a leadership position who exhibits a lack of conviction for the challenge at hand. In equal measure, a lack of conviction is contagious and can impact even the most positively inclined individuals of a team. In a documented Navy Seal competition of tug boat races, the last place team was able to move into first place simply by swapping out the leader while all other team members remained the same. The dramatic improvement was a result of a team driven by the conviction of an inspiring leader.
Energy must also be empathetic in order to move a workforce. When individuals know that their leader has their best interests in mind and genuinely feels their pain and anxieties, they are more likely to go above and beyond the call of duty rather than simply accomplishing the task at hand. Empathy can mean a leader taking the time to understand what is happening in a team member’s personal life or asking individuals what they can do to make performing their job more effective.
In one particular case, a CEO took time out of a particularly busy day to say hello and spend time with a colleague’s parents who were visiting from another country. What made the experience even more profound was that the colleague was not necessarily a senior person at the company, but yet the CEO felt compelled to take the time for the benefit of his colleague. Even though it was a small gesture, the act demonstrated to all around, the CEO’s character as an empathetic leader.
In an industry where people are highly analytical, leaders must be sharp and steps ahead of their colleagues. Without analytical horsepower, high energy is dangerous. It leads teams astray and does so quickly with momentum. So, an effective leader must have analytical skills and energy that colleagues trust. Software engineers or sales people for that manner will not blindly follow an executive that does not know the details and logic behind the projects and initiatives being undertaken.
Many of the top performers who were nominated were described as being highly intelligent and strategic and in many cases having the uncanny ability to predict outcomes with precision. Such highly analytical minds are particularly admired in the software industry where many workers in the profession come from deeply technical backgrounds. If a leader shows signs of weakness on the technical front, trust from colleagues can unravel fairly quickly.
Top performers generate a significant amount of energy both for themselves and their teams but such energy must be of a certain quality to be effective. It must be positive, empathetic and analytical. With these three attributes software professionals may be on the path to becoming a top performing and influential leader in their organization.