Architects, Leadership, and Influence
By Bob Rhubart-Oracle on Apr 04, 2012
Technical expertise is a given for architects. In addition to solid development experience, extensive knowledge of technical trends, tools, standards, and methodolgies (not to mention business accumen) provides the foundation for the decisions the architect must make in the effort to get all the pieces to work together. But even superior technical chops can't overcome a lack of leadership.
Leadership is about influence: the ability to effectively communicate — to sell your ideas and defend your decisions in a manner that affects the decisions of the people around you. Leadership and influence are especially important in situations in which the architect may not have the authority to simply tell people what to do. And even when the architect has that kind of authority, influential leadership can mean the difference between gaining real buy-in and support from colleagues and stakeholders, and settling for their grudging acceptance (or worse). Guess which outcome is likely to produce the best results.
In a previous post I presented some examples of the kind of criticism that is leveled at architects, a great deal of which can be attributed to a lack of leadership and influence on the part of the targets of that criticism. So it was serendipitous that I recently ran across a post on the Harvard Business Review blog written by Chris Musselwhite and Tammie Plouffe.
That post, When Your Influence Is Ineffective, includes this:
[I]nfluence becomes ineffective when individuals become so focused on the desired outcome that they fail to fully consider the situation. While the influencer may still gain the short-term desired outcome, he or she can do long-term damage to personal effectiveness and the organization, as it creates an atmosphere of distrust where people stop listening, and the potential for innovation or progress is diminished.
The need to "see the big picture" is a grossly reductive assesement of the architect's responsibilities — but that doesn't mean it's not true. That big picture perspective must encompass both the technological elements of the architecture and the elements responsible for implementing those technologies in compliance with the prescribed architecture. Technologies may be tempermental, but they don't have personalities or egos, and they are unlikely to carry a grudge — not yet, anyway (Hello, Skynet!). Effective leadership and the ability to influence people can help to ensure that all the pieces fit and that they work together, today and tomorrow.