The purpose of a software team is to complete a mission. If you are a software
team leader, your success is defined by the accomplishment of that mission; you
must own the result 100%.
That the success of the mission is entirely their responsibility is offensive
to some leaders. They reject the notion that they are 100% responsible for the
In some cases, leaders want to share responsibility with their team. In other
cases, leaders actually believe that mission accomplishment is the
responsibility of only their team members and not of themselves.
Those are bad leaders.
This way of thinking and leading does not work. It results in lack of
commitment to the mission results. It results in blaming, which is the opposite
of taking responsibility. It results in team members trying to lead outside of
their sphere of influence in an attempt to fill a leadership vacuum.
Mission responsibility is not shared with your team.
To be a successful leader, you must accept responsibility for the mission and
you must be able to envision how your team will accomplish it.
Is the mission impossible to accomplish? Lead upwards and redefine the mission.
Is your team not big enough to accomplish the mission? Hire more team members.
Is your team not strong enough to accomplish the mission? Strengthen them;
Is the timeline impossible to meet? Renegotiate the timeline, reduce the
mission scope, or lower the bar on quality.
Does the mission conflict with company strategy? Lead upwards and redefine the
Is the mission out of line with company values? Lead upwards and realign it.
Is the mission too vague? Lead upwards and clarify it.
Is the mission too complex to oversee directly? Split the mission into
sub-missions and split your team into sub-teams, and then delegate.
Don’t know how to accomplish the mission? You probably have a leader of your
own. They have a mission, too. Seek help from them.
As a leader, the worst thing you can do is to fail at your mission and then to
blame your team.
Accepting full responsibility for the team’s mission — owning it — will
guide you to take the right actions. It is difficult to fault any leader who in
good faith acted to accomplish their mission.
Own your results. Accept responsibility for mission success.