Leadership Advice: How Being a Good Software Developer Can Help You Be a Good Business Leader

Leadership advice that will help you develop a profitable business and a skilled team isn’t all that different from the innovation, continuous improvement, and drive necessary to be a successful software developer.

The presentations at the John C. Maxwell 2018 Live2Lead Conference were undeniably inspiring to people in all types of leadership roles – as well as to people aspiring to become leaders. But as I listened to Maxwell and the other presenters offer leadership advice, I couldn’t help thinking that it was tailor-made for the ISVs in the audience.

So many of the characteristics of strong leaders are also the skills and traits that good software developers need to have. Have you ever considered that the skills that enable you to develop marketable applications can also help you develop a strong business and a strong team?

Maxwell, a New York Times #1 best-selling author and renowned leadership expert, introduced his new book Leader Shift: 11 Essential Changes Every Leader Must Embrace at the conference, pointing out that strong leaders have certain traits in common:

1. They are committed to continuous improvement.

ISVs know one of the foundations of Agile software development is continuous improvement. But Maxwell says continuous improvement key to success as a leader. You can’t ever stop learning and adapting. Realize that today’s best will not meet tomorrow’s challenges,” says Maxwell. “There’s nothing worse than leaders who are historians.”

He says it’s important to recognize “The Cycle of Success,” which he credits to Paul Martinelli, president of the John Maxwell Team. This sound leadership advice reminds you that successful leadership isn’t a steady climb, but rather a cycle that includes:

Testing — Failure — Learning — Improvement — Re-entry

The Cycle of Success parallels innovative and creative processes that result in marketable software applications, as well as continually adapting project management methodologies to new situations. Leaders have to be willing to try and fail so they can learn and continue moving their businesses forward in all areas.

2. They understand the importance of timing.

Maxwell also points out that people who achieve the greatest success aren’t necessarily the most talented or the best equipped. They’re often the people who got there first. “Leaders see more than what others see, they see it bigger and they see it quicker,” explains Maxwell. “When you see the bandwagon,” says Maxwell, “it’s too late to lead.”

This isn’t a concept that’s difficult for software developers to understand in a fast-paced and quickly advancing market. The first to market often have the advantage with market share and pricing.

But being first can also have benefits when it comes to managing your team. For example, trying new processes that free employees to focus on innovation, can vault your business ahead of the competition. It may also allow you to create a culture that fosters success for individual team members, which could help retain top talent for in-demand roles. Is the way you lead your professional team as cutting edge as your applications?

3. They don’t stand still.

Although there’s validity in applying to Sun Tsu’s Art of War to business — i.e., never go into battle unless you’ve already won — Maxwell points out that while you’re waiting to have all the answers, you aren’t making any progress. He says strong leaders will courageously move forward in the midst of uncertainty. “People don’t follow titles. They follow courage,” he says.

Successful software developers are great at managing risk when their innovating and releasing a new product. Can you apply those same principles to trying new project management methodologies to operate more efficiently and to create a stronger workplace culture? Don’t stand still, especially when everything around you is changing.

If you’re an ISV that’s uncertain of your leadership skills, take some time to think about the characteristics you have and the skills you’ve developed in your core competency. You already have a head start on the skills it takes to be a successful leader.  

Bernadette Wilson

Bernadette Wilson, a DevPro Journal contributor, has 19 years of experience as a journalist, writer, editor, and B2B marketer.


Bernadette Wilson, a DevPro Journal contributor, has 19 years of experience as a journalist, writer, editor, and B2B marketer.