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Leadership in Software Testing __________________________
Hung Nguyen, CEO & President, LogiGear Corporation

Last week I attended a networking event in Silicon Valley with the theme of “Bad Management.” Approximately eighty people attended this session, primarily executives and entrepreneurs. There was a five-person panel of business leaders and senior managers. The panel as well as some participants took turns sharing war stories of bad management, and then the group noted some key lessons learned. Here are some of the highlights:

-“For every criticism, it takes eleven praises to balance it out.”
-“The golden rule: Treat others the way you want to be treated.”
-“The platinum rule: Treat others the way they want to be treated.”

Regardless of how old or new they are, these maxims will surely refresh your thinking about how to be a good leader, or at least avoid becoming a bad one. As I was sitting there listening and observing the interactions of these executives, I started to see some parallels between the challenges faced by executives as well as QA managers and test leads. They all must be able to effectively manage people in order to succeed! Consider:

-We want to motivate and retain our staff (at least the good ones).
-We want to optimize our productivity given the existing resource and capability.
We will not be able to accomplish those goals if we don’t employ good management techniques.

Here’s how I think you can apply the key principles of good management to being an effective testing and QA leader:

-It’s about people—don’t forget to give credit where it’s due while being critical when performance is not up to par, and don’t forget to always be respectful, no matter what sort of feedback you’re giving.
-Communication is critical—as a leader, we interact with our staff, upper management, and peers. Additionally, many of us now work with global staff which requires extra sensitivity to cultural differences. The main objective is to optimize the performance of the entire organization, not any particular individual, and the key to organizational performance is communication.
-Think beyond “me”— everyone in your organization is working toward common business goals. While a lot of what you do might be tactical, step back and think strategically about how you can align project and operational objectives and contribute to the fullest. The answer might not be the tool or the process that you want to employ, but it’s more important that it enables the company to accomplish its objectives faster and more effectively.
-Lead by example—your staff and peers will watch what you do, not what you say. Back up your words with actions, and soon people will follow your lead.
-Be confident—there is a stigma that QA and testing professionals are second-class citizens. In my view, this is partly because we often complain or give in to pressure from development and other folks, rather than focusing on standing our grounding or doing what we think is best for the project. As a leader of the testing team, if you are confident in your opinions and stand up for what you believe, the attitude will be contagious with the rest of your testing team, and testing will get the respect it deserves within your organization!

Finally, good or bad leadership traits stay with you for the rest of your career, and your life. Whether you are a test lead, a manager, or a CEO of a fortune 500 company, the quality of your leadership skills will set you apart from the crowd.
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