Architects don’t write code.  That’s the first thing that a developer notices when he or she moves into this job.  But there is another change… substantial yet subtle… Architects don’t accomplish anything without having someone else ‘doing the real work.’

This is not that different from project managers and development managers.  You have to move from the individual contributor role to that of leader and, to an extent, manager.  However, this is not leadership by “I said so.”  Very few developers report directly to an architect.  This is leadership by, well, leadership.  You have to influence the decisions of others without having direct control over them.

Since you have no direct control, Leadership skills matter a great deal to the architect.  You have to show that the team has common goals, and sell those goals.  You have to share ideas, build credibility, set a direction and help each person to know how they can help the team to reach it.

Find the passionate among you.  Most people are passionate about something.  There is some aspect of their job that they love.  Find it.  Speak with them.  Go to lunch.  Share ideas.  Brainstorm.  Listen.

Find their passion and harness it.  Show them how their passion can become their job.  They will follow you into battle if they believe in the goal and their role in it and are passionate about their role.  Developers will follow if they believe you can lead. 

By Nick Malik

Former CIO and present Strategic Architect, Nick Malik is a Seattle based business and technology advisor with over 30 years of professional experience in management, systems, and technology. He is the co-author of the influential paper "Perspectives on Enterprise Architecture" with Dr. Brian Cameron that effectively defined modern Enterprise Architecture practices, and he is frequent speaker at public gatherings on Enterprise Architecture and related topics. He coauthored a book on Visual Storytelling with Martin Sykes and Mark West titled "Stories That Move Mountains".

5 thoughts on “Lead and harness the passion in those around you”
  1. >Architects don’t write code.

    Actually, I think the good ones do.

    Even if it’s not a lot code, or even the most important code, it’s still the best form of leadership there is for a development team to follow.

    Hand waving, UML on whiteboards and long lunches will only get you so far. Unless you can code (and show you can code relevantly and regularly) then prior reputation quickly washes away: A ‘manager without portfolio’ irrevelance then quickly happens, which is frustrating for all concerned.

    Just saying, and there was a ‘What do you think?’ nice empty box to type into… 🙂

    PS Yes, I have worked in 100+ people projects.

  2. This is a great post.  As an architect, I don’t do the "real work" anymore, but I need others to accomplish my own goals.  So how to work with them is so important.

  3. Hi David,

    Yes… Leadership by example is important and developers won’t follow an architect’s technical lead until they are sure that the architect has the ability to keep up with them.  You cannot lose the ability to code.  It is easy to become irrelevant.

    However, when it comes to really making a system come to life, the architect decides where the heart will sit, what it will do, and how it will work, but doesn’t build it.  

    I think you know what I meant.  I enjoyed your reply, though.  

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