Certainty and Independence (Letter No. 3)

Dear Tech Lead,

Happy Fourth of July to us in the States! Don’t know about you, but it’s traditionally been my least favorite holiday. I grew up in Phoenix where it’s so, so, so damned hot this time of year. Once I lived in Seattle and Los Angeles, however, I totally got it. Have fun!

And if you’re taking the time to read my letter today, thanks for that.

Hopefully you won’t think I’m stretching too far to find an Independence Day tie in, but the two words — independence and certainty — floated around and mashed up in my head today.

Here’s what I came up with: your effectiveness as a leader depends partly on your personal, internal sense of independence. Especially as a low-level tech lead in the organization, odds are you’ll often need to push back on your management to support your team’s vision — management which is probably stacked deeply against you in any reasonably sized organization.

But, as we talked about yesterday, if you’re still looking for your own personal certainty by producing results for management, you’re going to find the tech lead role frustrating and you’re going to have a hard time building trust with your team. In my earliest tech lead roles, I struggled a lot with this. Still do sometimes.

But the people who fought to create the American Experiment that I’m benefiting from today certainly believed in a mere vision and in a possibility of a better world. Many even found enough certainty in that vision to die for it.

Happy Birthday America, and enjoy your holiday tech leads!


“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”

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