What makes a good leader?
Most would assume that subject matter expertise is an important qualification. Sometimes this is true but not always. In fact, some of the most knowledgeable subject matter experts I know of would make for lousy leaders (I'm probably a prime example). An SME will often focus one one topic and one way of doing things, and will have strong opinions to the exclusion of hearing alternatives. But a good leader needs enable the work-group to explorer alternatives, will ensure that all sides are heard, and also drive consensus.
From my perspective, the best leaders are those who are skilled at facilitation and delegation, rather than those who can do the actual work. You might need to understand the subject matter well enough to drive the agenda, but certainly not so well as to be needed to weigh in every decision. In fact, being a little bit apart from the topic can enable a leader to help the work-group gain needed clarity. Project management skills count for a lot in work-group leadership. A good PM with no subject matter expertise can be much more successful than an SME with no project management skills.
So, the next time there is an opportunity to provide leadership in an SDO or workgroup, ask yourself these questions:
- Are you a good facilitator and listener?
- Do you have project management experience?
If so, apply. There will be plenty of opportunities for on-the-job subject matter training.