Leadership - What is it exactly?

I originally started this topic on the MoT slack, but speaking with Heather I think it would be great to widen the net for this topic, so here it goes…

What is leadership in everyone minds? To be leadership is about directing a group of individuals towards and goal or objective, and overseeing a group of individuals and working with them to better their career. However, in my mind the only way that you seem to get leadership is by moving up the career ladder into a position (or title) which allow or forces (depending on how you see it) to do it. I know that this is not the right mindset to have, does anyone else suffer from this way of thinking? How did you overcome it? Any practical tips?


“Real leadership is granted and not imposed.”

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Hi Chris!

to me leadership and management are two different things. so to me these are different:

  1. directing a group of individuals towards and goal or objective
  2. overseeing a group of individuals and working with them to better their career

I can lead and enable a testing activity - without looking into hire/fire & career paths etc.

As covered in @jitgo’s talk recently, a path may exist to be a “principal tester”:

Where I have been working the last 10 odd years, there has been a difference in the ROLE and the LEVEL. I might have been both lucky and privileged… While my title is Senior Test manager - I have never had line management duties. Similar I have rarely seen a PMI/IPMA project manager or scrum masters with line management duties… Read more about my experience here: https://jlottosen.wordpress.com/2019/04/03/career-paths-for-testing-specialists/

First hurdle is to overcome, that you can lead without managing… :slight_smile:


Jesper makes an important point.
I see leadership as a combination of a few things:

  • Knowing or learning what needs to be done. Leaders need to know where to go.
  • Learning what to do and how to do it. Leaders develop and refine their skills.
  • When you have a plan and set a good example, people ask you for advice and follow it. Leaders help the team succeed.
  • A successful team depends on shared responsibility. Leaders help team members develop skills (including leadership responsibilities).
    These are general principles of course. But you can apply them to any group activity, without a leadership title.
    In my experience, a move up the career ladder does not grant leadership. It’s simply a recognition of what the leader is already doing.
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You don’t need any title/position to lead something.
A leader I see as a person whose opinion most people ask for, request, need, and respect.
(even though some people have various titles in our extended team, some of us lead something; some might be leading nothing - even those with titles/positions)
Each of us has an image of the other peers we work with and we appreciate or not the others.

Examples from my team (regardless of company status, personal status, personal physical traits)
a person leads the technical architecture, one leads the company communication, one is a problem fixer(for almost any problem), one is the release person, another is the tester for any product related topics(developer or ideas only), one is the optimum solution finder, one is the analyst, one is the organizer, another is the information officer, one is the technical&business support handler, and so on.

I have and had many managers whom I didn’t consider as leaders for most of the things but my contract/salary/yearly-review.


Echoing what I think is one of the key sentiments in @ipstefan’s comment, strong leadership involves gaining trust and being able to build buy in. It’s one thing to be told you’re a technical lead, but you’re not a leader until others are actually following you somewhere.


Leadership to me is bringing everyone along on a vision. That could be a tool, ways of working, automation framework, idea to make the productvbetter…I often see reluctance to lead due to uncertainty /possibly fear that “I don’t have the authority to do this”. You don’t need to be a manager to be a leader. It’s simply about getting all stakeholders involved with your vision and using your influencing skills / understanding any concerns and working collaboratively to move forward.