3 Quotes on Leadership

Ever since I join Zalando as a lead I was interested in understanding what leadership is, with the additional challenge of figuring out how to do data science and machine learning at an industrial level. The latter might be a topic for another post, but here are three quotes on leadership I discovered along my journey.

Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.

—Peter Drucker

The first one is by “management guru” Peter Drucker, explaining that leadership is not just about organization and processes, but also about giving guidance and direction. I think this is true on every level, not just for CEOs and department heads, and it is also not just about strategic decisions, but also the day-to-day work.

The second one is from Brene Brown who writes a lot about authenticity and the struggle that comes from exposing yourself, as is often required when you stand in front of people to lead them. She wrote the “Daring Greatly Leadership Manifesto,” which starts like this:

Leader: Anyone who holds her- or himself accountable for finding potential in people and processes.

— Brene Brown

I particularly like the positivity I hear in focussing on potential, and not just seeing everything in terms of what needs fixing. And yes, if there is one person that should be interested in figuring out how to improve things, it is the lead.

Finally, in a HBR whiteboard session video with historian Nancy Koehn, she cites this quote by David Foster Wallace:

In other words, a real leader is somebody who can help us overcome the limitations of our own individual laziness and selfishness and weakness and fear and get us to do better things than we can get ourselves to do on our own.

—David Foster Wallace

You can find a longer quote leading up to this sentence on brainpickings.

Maybe like many who come from a technical background, I often struggled with the question of what I actually contribute if I am “only” managing people, and not doing any actual work by myself. This quote reminds me that I may not be the one doing the work, but I may have contributed to helping that the work can be done by others.

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