Think of your favorite professor from your formative years. This might have been from college, high school or even as far back as childhood. I ask this of many people I interact with and one of the most common reasons for a nominalization is always that “the teacher knew their stuff and was very good at their job”. And then I ask them to remember a professor that they disliked very much. Disregarding subjective reasons for nominalization, one very common reason was incompetence, not even the lack of skill in teaching but rather the dislike was triggered by observing that the teacher was just regurgitating information, much like a machine and had no true skill in the field being taught.
And this makes sense. You see, a teacher that expects competence from their students in a field that they themselves lack competence is a hypocritical expectation that destroys any chance of a honest, trusting exchange. And this is also true of leaders.
Now, unlike a teacher who trains for most of their adult life in “mastering” a field, a leader of tech and industry does not have the same luxury. But this is common knowledge for everyone. You see, simply making an honest and visible effort in at least familiarizing yourself with your team members tasks, work and challenges is enough, and very much so appreciated.
You need be good or preferably excellent at your own tasks and obligations, but having interest in, knowledge of or even some aptitude for all your teams work will not only earn you bonus points, but will also help you understand and better evaluate their performance and their challenges.
You’ll be more abled to distribute work, keep an open ear for justified gripe, intervene when necessary and also be able to scout for and recruit new talent. Best of all you will be able to honestly encourage your team members individually and when their morale is down, words of encouragement from you will hold weight and not just be perceived as fluff.
This goes back to one of my all time favorite misquotes. Perhaps you are familiar with “Jack of all trades, master of none”. This misquote is oftentimes used to belittle the effort of earnest people at expanding their array if skills. In popular culture it goes hand in hand with the saying “to bite off more than you can chew”. Nothing further from the truth. The real whole quotes is as follows:
“Jack of all trades, master of none but still better than master of one”
Notice how much the true meaning of the quote shifts from the necessity of specialization to the importance of versatility.
And it’s this exact versatility which is a point of aspiration. For a versatile leader, might not be the best executant of each task necessary to get the job done, but will undoubtably be more than capable of recognizing “the best person for the job”. And this skill of recognizing which person is best fitted to handle a task is exactly the stuff leaders are made of.
So take the time to read up on your teams members fields of activity and specifics. Take the time to ask questions to better understand what it is that they do best. Make an effort to expand your skill set, even to the level of a novice and you will not only earn the appreciation of your team but also a personal appreciation for your teams work. I leave to you my new favorite quote interpretation, and please use it yourself if need be. Here goes:
“Leader of all trades, master of none but still better than master of one”