Advice for Testers Who Want To Have Strong Leadership Qualities

I loved this question from Marie in the Slack AMA

What’s your best advice for testers who want to have strong leadership qualities?

Bruce came back with an excellent answer which I think all of us could learn from!

My best advice is to check what strong leadership qualities mean for you. Everyone has their own idea about what makes a good leader, and you’ll be happiest and most effective as the type of leader you like and value. That’s what you should aim for, no matter what medium article tells you is a MUST-HAVE trait for leadership.

I like exercises that go something like this, you may have seen them before:

  1. Write down the names of three leaders you think are great
  2. Write down the traits those leaders have which made them great
  3. Write out examples of times they showed those traits

There’s different variations, but you have to find what’s most important to you, and you often see that when you assess the leaders you’ve liked in the past.

It’s much weirder to become a better leader than other skills imo because the skills are so variable, but if you work out what kind of qualities you want to exhibit, then you can break those down into behaviours and keep a journal. I have a behaviour tracker going at the moment for the way that I communicate with the team. At the end of the week I give myself two scores - one for how well I paid active attention in meetings and spoke up/asked questions etc, and one for how I feel I’m progressing at making friends. I write down in the journal (a spreadsheet) notes on times I spoke up and what happened after I did so, too. It might seem silly but it holds me accountable for always presenting my best self. (and my best self is the one who is authentic and has a life-size cardboard cut out of Severus Snape behind my chair and laughs too loudly and makes silly faces at people’s babies in video calls and messages random coworkers asking for photos of their dogs)((cos we are the people who get to decide which bits of us are the best bits, not everyone else))

Also don’t fall into the trap with tracking behaviours or concentrating on times when you didn’t meet your goal etc. It’s too easy to start thinking “I did that wrong, I should have done X” and then end up unhappier than before because you’re constantly not good enough. You’re awesome! Super awesome!! So if you don’t do the extra things, you’re still awesome. It’s just that doing the extra things is extra awesome.

If you try the exercise that Bruce suggested why not what you wrote? :grin:


That’s a great answer! My colleague wrote an article about how to be a great leader of testers and I think he raises some qualities that are also super important for being a great leader in general, but it’s true, it’s a subjective thing!!

My advice is to delegate, trust your team, let them learn even if they have to make mistakes to get it.

In another life, and wearing a very different hat, I found myself becoming a leader by accident. I’d inherited a role in the local branch of a trade union almost by accident, and over time, I found that I was looked up to as a leader because a) I was the one who spoke up on stuff, b) when I did, I was mainly saying what everyone else was thinking but was afraid to say in a workplace situation, and c) I was doing The Right Thing.

This was helped by the union itself making certain that I had the necessary knowledge to do the job. I also developed a support network outside the workplace which consisted of a number of peers from other workplaces plus top-level national union leaders. This did mean that workplace management had to acknowledge my status (much as they would have preferred not to, this was part of the wider culture which they could not 100% disregard), and I was gratified to find so many members willingly falling in behind me, sometimes at times when I least expected it.

In short, sometimes people will follow a figurehead (whether the figurehead knows that’s what they are or not).