TestBash Home: Leadership Panel

On 1st May, the smackdown host @cupcake_tester will be joined by 3 remarkably experienced panellists with many years of experience in leadership for the TestBash Home Leadership Panel.

Of course, you’ll have the opportunity to ask questions live at the time of the panel for @thetestchick, @sheymouse and @nicola to answer. However, if you know the questions you’d like to ask in advance, add them here and Jenna will ask them live during the panel.

Unanswered Questions Here:
1. Vernon Richards - Management seems to be dismissed as universally “bad” and everyone should aim to be a leader. Why is that and do you think it’s true?
2. Rob - Topic: Combined role - Tester and Scrummaster Role, perfect combination as a “servant Leader”?Is the testrole as a testcoach also a “Servant leader”?
3. Ali Hill- I’ve seen the idea floated around that your first management role is probably going to be a case of failing and learning from that experience. Would you agree with this?
4. Deborah - How to lead people in different roles/jobs i.e. A developer leading a tester or a tester leading a developer?
5. Elena Ivan - What advice would you give to someone who is coaching someone else for the first time? both are testers
6. Ali Hill - If you had to pick one top leadership quality, what would it be?
7. Elena Ivan - What would you do when you are working together with another person, but have different opinions on how you should work together and work processes and so on.? You are trying to mentor and coach this person
8. Simon Prior - What techniques have you found most successful for empowering your teams?
9. Simon Prior - What ways would you suggest would help to give your teams a voice? Especially test teams who are sometimes discounted as “only needed for running tests”
10. Jen Kitson - As a leader, how do you know when to focus on listening and information gathering and when to focus on leading and setting the direction for others?
11. Simon Prior - What books or resources have been your inspirations?
12. Jen Kitson - Leaders often have to stand up for their beliefs when others don’t agree. But how do you know when you’ve made a mistake and should back down and change your plan?
13. Christian Dabnor - How do you know whether you’re making a difference, positive or negative?
14. Simon Prior - Who are your leadership inspirations?
15. Honey Chawla - How to give your boss
16. Butch Mayhew - What is a big mistake you’ve made on your leadership journey, so we don’t have to?
17. Cassandra HL - Leadership can sometimes be guiding / coaching, creating a safe-to-fail environment by failing yourself and letting others fail (when you could stop it) so they can learn from the experience. Discuss :stuck_out_tongue:
18. Cassandra HL - Is self-confidence a prerequisite for good leadership? If so, how might one gain that confidence?
19. Bruce Hughes - Can you tell us about a time when you realised that someone was a great leader? Who was it and what did they do to make you realise that?
20. Bogdan - Any advice working with very pushy management ppl (PMs mostly and sometimes newly employed) who only care about themselves and their project/customer because they wanna look good/take credit to upper management thus alienating & overworking the whole team?
21. Simon Prior - If you could influence the hiring of your line manager, what skills would you suggest were important?
22. Lilit Sharkhatunyan - How do you see the future of test leadership?
23. Matthew Dekenah - What one book would you recommend to aspiring leaders?
24. Honey Chawla - If you are a good leader who leads by example but you are too honest and not political and that is hampering your growth, what should you do?
25. Matthew Dekenah - What advice would you have for someone starting to lead a group of peers who may have more experience or tenure?
26. Louise Gibbs - Do you have to be a manager to be a leader?
27. Louise Gibbs - What would be the biggest barrier to good leadership?
28. Lilit Sharkhatunyan - What skill sets do you think test coaches require?
29. Louise Gibbs - How can a leader find a balance between supporting the needs of the business and supporting the needs of the team?
30. goga - What about there is a culture where everyone says to everyone what to do and there is no responsibility defined, everyone does whatever they think they should do?
31. Nishi - How do you see a good leader express discontent or negative feedback?
32. Sharon O’Boyle - How best to deal with leadership that does not communicate adequately to allow our best testing? They seem to think it’s all about exploratory testing execution and leadership does not realise how much upfront work, learning, tacit knowledge and test ideas are picked up through being involved in advance in conversations and planning meetings etc
33. Georgia Bloyce - I like all your descriptions of good leaders. Are there any qualities that make a particularly good leader in test/quality/etc, more than other leaders in other areas?
34. Bruce Hughes - Shey what does the meme on the wall behind you say?
35. shabbir @ CDL - What you think, how important it is for a leader to know the situation people are in?
36. Guy Mason - How do you manage the expectation that the business may have for your team members vs. the expectations that you or those within your team has (in terms of roles, responsibilities, opportunities)?
37. Mike Lyles - What is one advice that a leader gave to YOU that redirected your path or changed your future in the most positive way?
38. Clare - I like my leader/manager best when they show themselves to be vulnerable/real people too - how can you do this while maintaining your leadership role?
39. Roman Segador - Sometimes best leaders are forced to move to management roles. Do you think is underrated in the market the impact a good leader have inside a team?
40. Diego Gawenda - How does a leader, inspire the team members without having more technical skills than them?|
41. LSauce - What if you have a narcissistic leader in charge that is my way or the highway and does not listen to any differing views/opinions? In these situations, it’s hard to be true to yourself.
42. Guy Mason - How would you manage a situation where one of the people within your team is a partner of your own line manager and this person is underperforming or refuses to be a team player?
43. Joe - Can a person who is more introverted be a leader?
44. Mike Lyles - What do you feel are the 2-3 core values every leader should have?
45. Lilla - How do you encourage people to be honest with their leaders?
46. Dan Billing - Has anyone had a really awful experience of ‘leadership’, and what did they learn from that experience to make their own leadership better? Name names!
47. alt (Guna) - Displaying vulnerability. For the people who feel insecure to let people see them as anything else as a strong reliable person. How would you recommend to people learning to be vulnerable?
48. Benji - Is a leader also a coach?
49. Mike Mc - There is a lot of focus in this panel (an appropriate focus) on a leaders “soft” skills. What sort of “hard” skills could be helpful for an effective leader?
50. Arlene Weber - How do I convince my testers that they are not 2nd class citizens in the sw world?
51. Bucyeyeneza Isabelle - Being in leadership role does it mean not testing?
52. Vincent Munier - How much of management and leader skills are still needed in agile context?
53. Paul Marlow - Why is management seen as an older person role (experienced) versus technical skills being seen as a young person role (inexperienced)?
54. Marie Drake - It’s been proven by different research that women are still not as likely to go for a leadership role compared to men. Any advice for women who are trying to breakthrough?
55. Guy Mason - When it comes to leadership, is your success or failure in that role primarily down to the makeup of the team that you are managing, a reflection of your own leadership skills, or a bit of both?
56. Heather Harleman-Manis - How do you feel about a Manager who is also a Scrum Master?
57. Sharon O’Boyle - How can we deal productively with management practices that are making testing harder, such as keeping testers out of meetings, little planning, communicating with dev only… and not responding to requests for changes that would help testers…
58. |alt (Guna) - Any suggestions on good was to handle the negative feedback? Often the sandwiching can end up overly soft and the person does not notice that improvement is required.
59. Lilla - how can introverts be a good leader?
60. Mike Mc - Is that your piano? Do you play it?


I agree that leadership skills are something anyone can learn. However, as a highly introvert, I find it really hard. The fake it till you learn it won’t work for me, when I am not in the best mood, i just fall back to my older self. It is also exhaust me when i need to practice more my leadership self.
Do you have any advice on how can I improve my leadership skills? thx

1 Like

Hi Lilla, this is a great question, and being an introvert myself, it’s something I can relate to. You already have done the first step which is self-awareness, you know you get exhausted in certain situations and that is great knowledge to have.
I always recommend the book “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain. She gives lots of strategies for introvert leaders. This is a great place to start.
Also know that the best leader I had was an introvert too, so leadership is not just reserved for extroverts out there. Good luck on your leadership journey!


These are some of the essential books around leadership and management and other skills any leader needs to master that I’d recommend:

  • Becoming a Technical Leader - Gerry Weinberg
  • Resilient Management - Lara Hogan
  • The Manager’s Path - Camille Fournier
  • Radical Candor - Kim Scott
  • Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World - David Epstein
  • So Good They Can’t Ignore you - Cal Newport
  • 168 Hours - Laura Vanderkam (about how to manage your time)
  • Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience - Mihaly C
  • Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us - Daniel Pink

15th question is incomplete. Complete question is :::::
If your boss is not a good leader and your boss’s boss isn’t one too, should you try to be part of such organization and make efforts to bring positive change or get out and find a new job?

  • It gets even worse if the organization is very large

Hi Honey Chawla, that is a challenging question to answer without context. I believe that if the highest levels of leadership are not doing their job, there’s little we can do to implement change bottom up. We may be able to bring positive change at the team level, and that may be enough to keep everyone going, but organizational change needs at least one sponsor at the top. Hope that helps.

1 Like

My opinion on this is that management get a bad wrap because of years of micromanagement, even before knowledge work. Now that we are all mostly knowledge workers, the term ‘managing people’ don’t even apply. I have a team of people that report to me, but I don’t manage what they do, how they do it, when they do it. I manage processes, projects, budgets.

I believe it is self awareness. Self aware leaders are always seeking ways to improve their leadership skills, they proactively ask for feedback from others and act on it. They are not scared to say they don’t know something. Jerry Weinberg said it best: “Effective leaders build continuous testing of their own understanding into their work. They are self confident, but realistic about their own intellectual limitations”

This is an interesting question. I think a test coach can be a servent leader. To me, the role of a coach is to more or less be a servant leader. You either know where you need things to go, or you are helping people develop their direction that a project or whatever needs to go. Getting the person/people/teams moving in a forwards direction takes leadership, despite a usual coaching role being more about getting them to discover the directions themselves.

@alihill I think it depends on the support you receive from your organisation, particularly the leaders, as well as the team you are interacting with in that leadership position. If you have a dysfunctional team, and an uncaring management team, then I feel you are almost deemed to fail. If you are supported via coaching or mentoring on your first leadership role I feel you’d have more of a chance to succeed.

1 Like

@deborahreid I would take the standard approach of communicating well what needs to be done and how that fits in the vision. I would also be respectful of perhaps not understanding the nuances of that person’s role. I as an amateur when it comes to coding shouldn’t pretend to know what a developer is talking about, and ask for more information. Or, recognise that the developer is a professional, and lead them from a point of trust. I’d use one-to-ones to focus more on the coaching side than mentoring side of the relationship.

My approach would be to have at least one one-to-one where there is no agenda and the coach just gets to know more about the person. Maybe touch on areas where they feel they would like to improve.
Follow up shortly after with another one-to-one helping them to discover a journey to gaining the new skill, improvement, or what-ever.
Further sessions would be coach them on the journey, and course correct where necessary.
This is my approach, and not a formal coaching approach.