What is good leadership? The Open Heroines version

Open Heroines
Open Heroines
Published in
5 min readMay 18, 2017

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Leaders are a big part of our social movements and they also play a big part of the organisational structure. For us at Open Heroines, questions of leadership are important. Unless we are freelancing, we all have a boss to answer to at work. Some of us are also managers and have people to work with and lead. Some of us are thought leaders, and are busy in making ideas into reality. So leadership is really all around us.

This blog post of Open Heroines is part of a series dedicated to the concept of leadership and management, and what does it mean for us, the women of Open Heroines. We think that we don’t ponder enough about this concept in our spheres of open data, open government and civic tech. So we decided to take things to our hands and write how we imagine good leaders, good managers and good bosses. Yes, we put the terms “leader”, “manager” and “boss” under the same umbrella because we think that they all must to have leadership skills.

Us heroines discussed this topic in our Slack channel and came up with the following ideas. We would like to hear from you more on what you think a leader is, or what they should be. Just tweet to us Open Heroines

A good manager wants to make the people under them happy and healthy.

“One of my colleagues once told me that managers need to deal with three things: people, money and stuff. You can never be good at all three. A lot of people think that dealing with money alone is enough, but I think that it is about the people. Manage people in the right way and the money and stuff will be sorted as well.”

Managing people is more than just completing tasks, and meeting deadlines. It is also about building constructive relationships in the team and understanding the politics to achieve the goals set. It is more than just giving people enough sick days, leave days, and new computers. It is also about making sure that the team is in good mental health and is excited about their work.

“My manager is really good if I say I’m not feeling well mentally or physically and has never given me a hard time about it so I feel really comfortable saying I’m feeling xxx today and move my work around it so I do work when I’m productive. It’s been really good that way.”

A good leader is someone who offers a place to shine for each employee, supported by constructive feedback. A good boss is someone who helps you excel.

A lot of people are mixing the ideas of charisma and leadership in one, but the two do not always go together, or be mutually exclusive. True, a person that shines can attract funding and people, but if a leader does not provide a space for others to grow, give others more responsibility, and want them to shine as well, they are just a solo act, not a team. This is important since research shows that in managerial positions, people with good charisma will be more likely to be hired as a manager even though they probably have poor managerial skills. So for us, a good leader is someone that actively thinks about capacity building of personal skills and the team itself. As one of heroines shared with us:

“I actually once had a manager in my early career days who was scanning documents for quite some time and I offered to do it for her since I thought the junior person should do it. She then told me that I was there to learn and she thought I already knew scanning. I know it sounds profound but I have also experienced the opposite where managers wanted to demonstrate their power by giving me ‘assistant’ tasks.”

Credit to Think Public

A leader is someone who tells you — do magic, come back to me if you hit a wall, I will break it.

Leaders trust other people in their space to do whatever they can to advance the organisation’s cause. On the one hand, we see leaders as people that encourage their team to be self-reliant and independent, to have trust in them to do a good job, On the other, leaders should also be people who are there to support their employees when they are stuck. Like this anecdote from our heroines:

“My best experiences with my boss was a trust to the extend of, when I came with problems she knew she is the last option for me. never an issue that I brought was left on my shoulders, it was always solvable somehow and I never needed to explain (myself or the issue) more that it was necessary.”

Good managers are clear and know what they want to achieve and how to communicate it to the team.

Clarity is important for our spaces, for many reasons, but this one stands out: our space is international, with international bodies. Having mixed ideas and expectations in a space where there are so much languages and cultures can sometimes create chaos. We understand that it is easier sometimes to be vague since the future holds so many different paths, but clarity — in roles, in tasks and vision can help teams to work in sync and without friction. From our heroines:

“The best manager I had, even when top management and the board couldn’t give clear guidelines or vision, he was able to say to me “keep doing your work, and I’ll figure out what they want.” for me that was a huge relief to not have to be the one reading everyone’s minds. When he left my new manager refused to deal with decision making or taking responsibility for decisions and didn’t know how to find clarity and work through the indecisiveness the org was going through at the time. Which lead to bad feelings, insecurity and disrespect. A good manager for me can find a way to give their underlings clarity to work through and keep them focused on that.”

In our next blog we will write about the aspects of transparency and good leadership — stay tuned!

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Open Heroines
Open Heroines

The voice of women and non-binary in #civictech #opengov and #opendata