From Power Rangers to Product Launches: How I Learned to Lead Effectively
I was about 6 or 7 when my mum first asked me “Khaled, there are leaders and there are followers. Which one are you?”
She said that because I was arguing with the neighbourhood kids over which Power Ranger we each got to be. I knew I wanted to be the red one and lead our imaginary team, but I didn’t know how to convince them that I deserved to be the red ranger. I immediately responded to my mum’s question and told her I’m a leader and assumed that she meant I should strong-arm the other kids into accepting me as the red ranger. I can’t blame 7 year old me for this flawed conclusion — it’s something many adults struggle with (including myself).
Getting buy-in and understanding how each member of my team communicates is both the biggest challenge and lesson I’ve had as a team lead so far. Among a team of generalists, it was difficult to find subject matter experts and it meant that an individual task was owned by multiple team members. Backed by a passion rivaling that of 7 year-old Power Rangers fans, each team member would defend their vision and priorities for a project. And while it is incredibly valuable to have such a motivated team, it also necessitates that there is a way to share ideas meaningfully, and eventually reach agreement then move forward with the project.
Of course, there is an endless supply of productivity and collaboration tools that seem to launch every 3 seconds, and we had our trusty methodologies and process flows to follow. What we lacked was the ability to be accountable to each other, leading our own assigned tasks for each project, and actually making use of all those tools to maintain close and transparent communication.
One of the first adjustments we made was identifying ‘go-to’ people. A few members of the team who had the most knowledge about each of our main focus areas, and could handle the responsibility of being the final decision makers. I realized I needed to be a better uniting voice, and — at the risk of taking this metaphor too far — know that in order for us to assemble a powerful Megazord, we each had to lead our own mechanical beast first.
This never took away our ability to collaborate on different tasks and share our individual thoughts, but it allowed us to move from the planning to action more swiftly. We couldn’t have a team made entirely of designers, or writers, or videographers or any other role. The key to leading a team was letting everyone flourish and take ownership of their domain, and only guide progress when needed.
As my team grows and changes, I continue to learn how to lead, fill both the roles of a player and a coach, and empower others to shine in their own areas without conflict or overlap, but with communication and mutual accountability.