I was listening to some leadership podcast a while back, and the person being interviewed was the founder of some tech company. He was asked what his number one requirement was of his team, and he said something like "be someone I have to hold back, not push forward - I don't have time for that (bleep)".
Jeff Bezos has famously made similar comments in the past as well. But for whatever reason, this time it stuck in my head. I don't even remember the messenger, but I can tell you that every time I've found success in life and in my career, it was when I was hurdling head-first into something with caution thrown to the wind. And then occasionally someone would tap me on my shoulder and say something like "okay that was enough, time to tap the breaks." Okay, I can do that.
This has come up a number of times in the past few weeks as I'm coaching some folks through some awkward transitions, and I realized this applies to this idea I'm exploring. The best SEs I've ever worked with all will dive in head-first with their customers, with the reps occasionally tagging them out like a pair of tag-team wrestlers. And I can remember several times when I had to be held back during an engagement, but not a lot of times where the discussion was anything more than a "go that way" kind of thing.
Practically speaking, I see this as a core leadership attribute. It's really hard to lead from the back of the room - it's almost always better to be out front, and then encourage people to come along for the journey with you. And let's make no mistake - sales engineering is a leadership function. We're leading our customers towards a solution to one of their biggest problems. You can't do that from the back either.
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