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Leading by multiplicity

The title for this post comes from a comment that Scott Hanselman made at the Alt.Net conference in Austin. There are two ways that people lead:

  • By Addition
  • By Multiplicity

In my opinion, the community at large would be greatly enhanced if more of the thought leaders were focused on growing other leaders in the field, as opposed to just adding followers behind them.

I went on a bit of a rant last week in front of my class where I expressed my disgust at the degradation of integrity that I have witnessed over the course of this last year. I am talking about developers and consultants who are out there as thought leaders, who are committing nothing less than career fraud by selling themselves into positions that they are not qualified to be in. With skillsets that they definitely do not possess.

I cannot change these people, they will continue to either make these mistakes and get caught in their own lies (the nets are closing in). Or they will see the error of their ways and make the necessary (often extremely difficult) corrective actions to ensure that they are walking in integrity.

One thing that continually impresses me is the amount of developer talent that is waiting on the sidelines getting ready to express their viewpoints and thoughts on software development with the rest of the industry. These are people who may not yet be regarded as the “experts”, but they are humble, willing to learn and possess extremely critical thinking. All it takes is for one person who can take the time to grow these people as leaders. Once this happens, then these people will most likely go out and do the same thing, start to grow other leaders. This is something that can spark a community (and I’m not just speaking dev in this scenario) in ways that you could not imagine.

I am hoping that I can continue to lead by multiplicity in the areas that I am given that opportunity. With that in mind (and hopefully not putting too much pressure on them) here are some people that I am going to be watching with interest over the next couple of years to see what their impacts on the development community (and for some, the world) will be:

Just so no one feels left out, I have met lots of people this year that I think have the potential to become community thought leaders. The people above are just those people whose blogs I know about. I did not mention the people who are already blogging who have a considerable amount of buzz around their materials already.

If you yourself are in a position of leadership (trust me, we all are in some capacity) I am encouraging you to grow a culture and community of leadership by multiplicity. There is nothing more satisfying than knowing that when you lead my multiplication, in one small form, you are leaving one shape of a legacy behind you.

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7 Responses to Leading by multiplicity

  1. jdn says:


    Who are these people creating horrible code? Who are these people making a mockery for the sake of profit?

    I’m tired of people who want to make random charges but refuse to back them up with specifics.

    Either put up or shut up.

  2. cmyers says:

    @jdn: “these people” doesn’t it go without saying? Jeez, almost every company needs software and most are hiring consultants or senior team leads full-time and most of them are doing it poorly. It’s hard to swing a stick and not hit 20 of them, at least here in Austin I dunno about your neck of the woods.

    There are lots of people out there purporting to be software professionals which are creating or facilitating horrible code in their ignorance or greed (most likely ignorance). It’s sad, really, because it gives all software a bad name and reinforces stereotypes and negativity among the business managers and executive types. And it necessarily makes it harder for the guys who DO know what they’re doing, or at least know their limits, to get jobs. But there is no shortage of the jobs, so it kind of makes up for it.

    While I’m sure JP certainly has a few people in mind, I’m sure there plenty of people out there just like the people he has in mind. And I wouldn’t assume that it’s someone in the community because JP meets a lot of people.

    Actually, more likely, it’s probably from horror stories he heard from the people who were attending his training sessions. He’s probably heard tons of stories of people like that.

    How can someone who has a raw passion and love for the art of software development NOT get extremely upset at people who make a mockery of it for the sake of profit (even in their ignorance)?

    It’s no so unprofessional for him to rant about it on his blog. it is *his* blog after all, and YOU (and I) come to it, so if we don’t like it, walk away. It *would* be unprofessional for him to do that at a client’s site. I doubt he does that though.

  3. jdn says:


    Who are ‘these’ people? The same as what JP is talking about, or are you making a more general point?

    If the general point is that there are incompetent people out there that find ways to get promoted, that’s life. We all know that.

    But JP is seemingly talking about things happening this year, as if it wasn’t a general point. So, who’s the target? The various high profile names from the community that have joined Microsoft? People who have left CodeBetter?

    If someone is going to make accusations about fraud and a lack of integrity, then quite frankly it comes across as self-aggrandizing, especially if made in such a generic broad brush way. “I’m so disgusted by these other nameless people who have a lack of integrity, unlike myself.”

    Which is the last sort of vibe I would have gotten from JP. YMMV.

  4. cmyers says:

    Awesome post. Its very tempting for people that may know the right thing to do — but may not have the experience or wherewithal to lead and educate — to try to put themselves in that position. Sometimes you don’t know whether you’re ready or not and so you try and must fail at least once. Without failure, you can never truly know what success is. Just make sure that when you fail, you do better next time, otherwise THEN you’re a fraud.

    As with life, fecundity of knowledge is the true measure of success. Anything less results in an echo chamber and atrophy of ideas.

  5. cmyers says:

    @jdn: By the mess they leave? The proof is in the puddin’. I’ve witnessed this myself and have even been guilty of it myself. While I might not be so bold as to say it’s fraud (ascribing motive is a dangerous thing), I would definitely chalk some of it up to ignorance. Many of these people are decent, intelligent people who have solved many problems in the past and are confident in their abilities, they just don’t know the Right Way(TM) and so are out there stamping out patterns and using previous successes to solve future problems which is usually a recipe for disaster.

    “Never ascribe to evil that which can adequately be explained by ignorance.”


  6. jdn says:

    I’d also be interested in more details. Seems that a few people are levelling pretty serious accusations about integrity these days. Career fraud? And from what position are you able to judge that these people are not qualified for the positions they’ve sold themselves into?

  7. Dave Laribee says:

    > I went on a bit of a rant last week in front of my class where I expressed my disgust at the degradation of integrity that I have witnessed over the course of this last year.

    Hmm… not to gossip, but examples? No need to name names, but what do you mean by degradation of integrity? What instances have you seen?

    I think we are lucky to belong to a group (ALT.NET) that treats integrity as membership dues. We all need to try and preserve that. I agree that we have a responsibility to call BS. I think that can be a diplomatic call to action, as a first resort, though.

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