Let go of Stereotypes

The key to building a great team lies in ejecting the stereotypical portrayal of the role from your mind, objectively figuring out the qualities needed for success in the role, and ruthlessly going after that.

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What is the stereotype of a leader?

A charismatic extrovert who can spellbind an audience with her talk.

Leadership is not about how charismatic you are or how good you are at public speaking. Popular culture has narrowly defined leadership to be so.

In the book, The Little Book of Talent, the author Daniel Coyle writes: Most great teachers/coaches/mentors do not give long-winded speeches. They do not give sermons or long lectures. Instead, they give short, unmistakably clear directions; they guide you to a target.

What is the stereotype of a developer?

This twitter thread does an excellent job of it.

Being a good developer is not about which editor you use or how socially awkward you are. These are urban legends devoid of any real substance.

Leaders and developers come in all shapes and sizes. Take a step back and think of all the great people you have worked with. Do they stick to the stereotypes associated with their role? Can you pigeonhole them into a mold?

The movie, Money Ball, is the best illustration of this line of thinking. The plot of the film revolves around the real-life story of a manager who assembles a successful baseball team analytically by ignoring the mythical stereotypes associated with what makes one a successful baseball player. This approach of building the team was not a cakewalk for him; he met with resistance from all for his radically different line of thinking.

Peter Thiel talks of startup hiring as finding the talent which the market has mispriced(I am paraphrasing this from memory).

If you stick to stereotypes while hiring and promoting, you are:

  1. Artificially restricting the available talent pool.
  2. Pursuing the same set of people that everyone else is.
  3. Going after qualities that you do not need.

We are sympathetic to underdogs, but we do not bet on them. Doing so is the not so secret strategy for building a great team.


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