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Leading from the comfort of my armchair

One of my favorite things about writing this blog is that I get to talk about me.  See, it’s right there in the name: “i, quaid.”  If you don’t figure it’s all about me, you are just not paying attention.

This week we went through the pleasurable experience of anointing the awesome Eric ‘Sparks’ Christensen as Fedora Docs Leader.  In all of that, the one thing that didn’t need discussing was me.  I covered my situation enough to explain that it’s really freaking important to Fedora that we keep leadership fresh and engaged.  I have become stale at leading Docs; I still work my ass off (for that measure of engagement), but I wasn’t seeing forests or trees anymore, just sawdust.  This post is to give a bit more background, and to let folks know I’m not going anywhere, just stepping back from the controls.

Wow, for the first time in a really long time, I do not have any named leadership positions in the Fedora Project.  My tenure on the Fedora Project Board ended in December 2008, Sparks is the new Docs Leader, Ian Weller is the Wiki Czar, I’m the most useless member of the EPEL steering committee, and my leading the ISV SIG is clearly part of the “get it moving and get out of the way” methodology.  I really am in a position to be a catalyst rather than being part of the old guard who is getting in the way of change.  Wahoo!

I usually find myself accidentally in leadership positions.  I don’t take the mantel lightly nor do I often handle it very well.  I’m indecisive and a poor whip cracker.  I make up for it by being a fair consensus seeker, networker, and idea collaborator.  I’ve learned to think and fake my way around this, like the way I appear extroverted when I just vont to be let alone.

To be perfectly honest, it’s not that I am really in my heart ready to let go — that is another quality as a leader where I fail, my inability to let go where I should.  My mixed feelings are entirely personal though, not a reflection on the kids currently making stuff happen.  This is clearly their time, and it’s obvious when you look at the resurgence in activity over the last few months as I lead up to this leadership change.  Now I can relax and let others take over the decision making and motivating, while I go back to kicking the occasional ass and actively helping with the F11 documentation as just another kid who happens to know a lot about how things work.  Also, since I don’t have to be the consensus building leader any longer, maybe I can start telling people who pour poison on fedora-docs-list to have a nice cup of STFU.

In looking things over for this post and for starting the Docs Project history page, I realized it has been four years since Greg Dekoenigsberg hit me up on IRC.  Aside from his great opener, “So, you appear to be the Docs leader,” Greg’s main point was something I highly agree with … and failed to do time and again.  “Get in, get it moving, then get out of the way.”  He was just doing that for (then) Fedora Extras, and it seemed like a good formula for Docs.

We formed a steering committee that I basically appointed, and proceeded from there.  My goal was to enable someone else to quickly come in and take over as the group leader.  Who did I pick in my mind as the natural successor?  You may have heard of him, Paul W. Frields.  Just when I was going to tap him to take on the mantel, Max Spevack did just that for Paul as an appointed member of the first Fedora Project Board.

With Paul effectively sidelined for the next year, I started over, working with the folks on the Fedora Documentation Steering Committee (FDSCo.)  We tried various schemes, including the first version of “should we revert to a SIG and give up on elections” discussion.  Sometime in 2008 we decided to skip the next election cycle — there weren’t enough people to run, the voting in the past elections had been dismal, and it was a distraction from getting work done.

So our tally now is — one year to get my legs underneath me and get the project moving (2005), one year to court then fail with Paul (2006), one more year to try that again with Paul before he got hired to a more distracting job (2007), one year to throw up our hands and just get work done instead (2008), and now here we are.  We brought ourselves to a pretty good place.  There are many more active people, people who are acting like leaders even without being invited to do so, and a renewed sense of purpose and possibility.

Now I get to relax a bit and be just useful instead of large and in charge.