Show Notes - Leadership is about systems


Leadership is about Systems

Aired on A Journeyman’s Travels Podcast on April 28, 2023
These are the notes from which I recorded the show. They’re a little unpolished since the original audience was just me. But I’ve added some of the reference material that I allude to in the podcast and post it here, should anyone want to ‘see how the sausage is made’.

Show Notes


  • Last time …

Not about Once, but about Consistency

We don’t right to level of our goals. We fall to the level of our systems.

  • James Clear
  • This is why we talked about Leadership - Its About Time
  • Succeeding Today is important, but so is succeeding into the future.
  • What got you here, was likely the systems you built the practices and processes you used to get your work done.

Codifying Knowledge

  • Organizations are made of people. They only grow and change as people do. The critical path for this to occur is when a Leader codifies their knowledge into a process. Into steps that others can go and repeat. This is the coaching and training portion of leadership, teaching your team how to do what you learned to do.
  • As we mentioned when talking previously, Leadership - Not About You… We immediately are talking about your team again.
  • Success in this is NOT in you being able to do the action, or in you writing it down… but in your TEAM being able to act on that guidance! They have to see what you see, understand what you understood and act like you used to.
  • And where there are gaps, they’ll probably come back to you with questions.
  • And for a somewhat rout process, this is easy to codify… but what about something more nuanced? something like problem-solving? or software development?
  • Sure there are patterns you can point them too, but fundamentally do-and-review are still our best go to tool.
  • And that means you’re still stuck long-term reviewing actions and decisions of others…
  • But what about a future when you’re on vacation?

Impact , even when you’re not in the room

  • What would be required for you to NOT block your team while you are on vacation? Do you want to log in ever 2 hours to give feedback on PRs? I certainly don’t!
  • Since Leadership is about them, and about how we spend our time, what can we do to allow us to more effective spend our time, even when on vacation, and NOT have to be dragged into the room anytime something didn’t get covered in the written procedure?
  • This is where the art of Delegation comes in.
  • I say art, as there is nuance to applying it effectively. I don’t delegate laundry duty to my 3 year old… but how much could I delegate to my 6 year old? Can my 3 year old handle the same chores as my 6 year old could when he was 3?
  • You have to match the ask to the person, AND you have to effectively communicate your goals and boundaries without completely constraining the actor!
  • Effective Delegation gets talked about all over the place, and some of the most insightful discussions come from Leadership Strategy and Tactics by Jocko Willink. And there 3 big parts
    • Goal - What is the operation supposed to achieve? What should all their actions be aimed at making happen?
    • Boundaries - What’s the line in the sand? Where are the fences? What boundaries do you expect them to see while trying to achieve the goal?
    • Freedoms - What kind of latitude do they have? What resources can they use? How long do they have? What kind of tools are at their disposal for creative use?
  • And don’t skip any of those! Skipping Boundaries or Goal have obvious consequences, but skilling the Freedoms would be akin to assigning responsibility for something to someone, with out also giving them authority to change it! (Keep this crystal vase safe, but you’re not allowed to move it from where it sits hanging over the ledge…)