Rakesh, one of the senior members of the team whispered at Rohit’s (another senior member) ear “Hey, Did you hear that? That kid is going to be our lead”. Rohit stared at Rakesh for few seconds in shock and said, “Are you sure? How did you know that?” . Rakesh said, “Yes, I over heard senior manager discussing about this with our manager”. Rohit said “Trust me Rakesh, if this happens, in next 3 months I am going to quit. How can they do this to us? There are so many senior members in the team and they skip all of them and pick up this 1 year old kid as the team lead. Have you heard this ever in any software company? This will the end of this company. He is a talented guy no doubt but unfortunately, this will ruin this kid’s career”. This was not a rumor and that got clarified as senior manager called for a team meeting and announced the same. There was absolute silence in the room except the unwilling claps that everybody did after senior manager started clapping post announcement. Not only Rakesh and Rohit but almost entire company was against the decision of this boy leading a team who joined software industry just 1 year back. The only advantage this kid had is he could work hard and had somewhat logical thinking ability. These qualities were present in almost everyone. There were no special skills. The second most advantage or worst disadvantage you may say is, management believed that this guy can lead a team of 7 members, where all were far more experienced than him. The least experienced in the team was 3 years more experienced than him and the most experienced was 10 years more. Nothing was ‘for’ him at that moment at the field level.
This opportunity changed the attitude and behavior of the person. He was not sure how to react, how to behave and how not to behave. While he was walking on the hallway many came congratulated him and he could clearly see none were really happy. He was on his way back to his desk and Rohit (who was 10 years more experienced than him) congratulated him. Rohit sits in the next cubicle. He looked at Rohit and sat on the floor say “Ohh my GOD!!!”. Rohit was confused at the reaction and was extremely unhappy. He asked “Why did you say that?”. He said, “ Rohitji, I do not know what to do. How can I be your lead? I feel so awkward. You are so senior”. Rohit thought “And this is the confidence this new lead is having. This kid is going to be dead” and smiled looking at him. There were absolutely nobody in the company to whom this guy could go and ask for advice.
He went home that day without doing much work and came next day morning with the same confusion and more anxiety. He maintained silence throughout the day because he was confused and millions of thoughts. But everybody who were observing him thought, “See how this guy changed in just one day. He is trying to look serious and behave like a boss”. Everybody were critical about what he talks, how he walks and how he behaves. The place where he used to make fun everyday and everybody were his friends, suddenly became a place where all became strangers and his worst critics. In one meeting his life became so tough and he was expected to be mature and responsible. Nobody shared any joke with him or called him to go for coffee. He felt so lonely. Members became cautious as soon as he passed through them. The entire office looked like a jail. He was not only confused, he was upset with this development too.
He did not call for any meeting for the rest of week or did not try to communicate what need to be done. Everybody almost knew what they have to do and there were no need for a meeting too. He spent the weekend is thinking too. This time beers helped a lot. Then Monday came. He went to office and did his work as developer. Once rest all members reached office and settled, he went to Rohit the senior most member’s desk. Stood there, like the way a student stands in front of a teacher. He very politely asked “Rohitji, do you need any help? I am done with my work so I was thinking if I can help you anyway”. Rohit looked at him and said “No” and continued his work. He went to the members with the same request but in different way and always got the same response “NO’. One thing was common, he treated each of them as masters and himself as a slave. He continued the same for next couple of weeks. He realized some really needed help but were hesitant to ask. He observed the behavior of entire office was changing and everybody again started looking and treating him as a kid. People started calling him for coffee and started sharing jokes once again. Things were becoming normal gradually. Work was going in a bit slower pace but there were no roadblocks as such. Then he started joking about himself in front of others and others felt better. Almost one month passed since he was declared as a lead and he has not done anything that a normal lead does. But one thing he achieved in one month that all became his good friends once again and he was treated as one among them.
Now when he used to go and ask a member if they need any help, they used to say yes and share their problems. He used to sit at their desk and work on it with them. He used to make changes to any code only after getting the consent from them. He used to leave the desk as soon as the problem is resolved. If anything is unresolved, he used to come again next day to their desk rather than waiting for their call. He never told anybody or shown any signs that he has helped anybody. He still behaved as a junior and just out from college in front of them. He respected each and everybody more than ever.
Almost a month passed since everything became normal. He was very good at analysis and debugging. Everybody in the team gradually recognized it. he used to work for 10 to 12 hours day just to help others. He used to spend another 2 to 3 hours to finish his work. So he had to spent 12 to 15 hours everyday at office. There were nobody who heard ‘No’ to help at any moment. Some used to call him so that they need not put their efforts to get the work done and some used to call for direction or small help. But now they used to call him to their desk rather than, he going to them asking if they needed help. Gradually days passed. 15 hours a day continued. Project was going smooth, rather in a faster pace. One day surprisingly Rohit came to his desk and asked for help. He was getting up to go to Rohit’s desk. Rohit kept his hand on his shoulder and indicated no need to move. He sat at his desk and Rohit pulled his chair and sat beside him. They discussed on the issue and finally got the resolution. As soon as he finished, another member came to ask a question and this continued. Although 15 hours a day continued but he used to sit at his place and others used to come. He did not change his behavior, style and friendliness. He still used to behave like slave but masters changed their behavior. One day he was standing outside the office building with Rakesh and Rohit. Rohit’s friend came to meet him. Rohit introduced him as ‘My lead’ to his friend. he elaborated, “see how young this guy is but he is a good lead. I never loved working with anyone in my 11 years of experience so far”. Then he felt very happy and he could feel the sense of achievement. He wanted to be certified by his team members as a lead not by management. He wanted a respect that is built by efforts not by words. He was the happiest person in the world. But he did not change his behavior because he knew his strength is in his modesty, honesty and remaining genuine. Anybody can get the technical and functional skills by working but getting the attitude is not so easy. He started team meetings and other activities that leaders are expected to do, slowly and steadily. Everybody accepted these without any hesitation. He became a leader by team members’ choice.
Respect comes when you know how to give respect. You must let others study and understand you. This can not be achieved by showing your power or authority. This can be achieved by being friendly. Once they understand you and you understand them, then everything becomes easy in life. If you really have talent then others will come to you and respect you. If you don’t have talent then better develop that first before forcing somebody to respect you. You have to be the magnet before you expect pins to come near you.
– Stray Dog