Learning Leadership with Cate Huston

Cate Huston gave me some tips on leadership at the recent WordCamp Europe held in Paris just a few weeks ago. Cate’s tips are super useful, and profound. Listen in to this 2 minute 55 second clip to learn how Cate leads:


Key Tips on Leadership via Cate Huston/

  1. Listen first.
  2. Be mindful about giving feedback — good feedback that is contextual and timely and comes from someone who is trusted. So building trust so you can give that feedback is really important.
  3. See people as human beings first.

Transcript of the Audio/

John Maeda/ I’m in Paris here with my colleague Cate Huston. You’re a mobile badass! Cate Huston is a superstar engineer and mobile lead at Automattic, and we were talking about leadership.

Cate Huston/ Yes, many things about leadership, but especially about leadership style, authenticity, and most of all, the options that are available to men but not available to women leaders.

JM/ How does that happen? How does it manifest?

CH/ Women tend to be judged on past performance rather than potential, and men tend to be judged on potential — specifically white men are judged on potential, and everybody else gets judged on past performance.

This means that as a leader who isn’t a white man, you need to work much harder to build credibility, and you need to be mindful about the things you’ll be judged much more harshly for.

JM/ When you were sharing that with me earlier my eyes got wide, and I thought it sounded right – it sounds like what I’ve seen. And I don’t like that — what can we do to change that behavior out there?

CH/ Sponsorship of under-indexed people in tech is really important, seeing people who have that potential but who normally don’t get recognized for it, and giving them the opportunity to prove themselves. Beyond that, recognizing the people who have done a great job.

JM/ Do you have tips for leaders out there in general? You’re an awesome leader, and I wished I could have taken notes while we were walking. What are the key tips on leadership from Cate?

CH/

  1. Listen first.
  2. Be mindful about giving feedback — good feedback that is contextual and timely and comes from someone who is trusted. So building trust so you can give that feedback is really important.
  3. See people as human beings first.

JM/ For any engineer out there who seeks to be a great engineer, I notice you had this idea around the difference between senior and mid-level engineers. What is your rule there?

CH/ A mid-level engineer makes the product better, but a senior engineer makes the whole team better.

JM/ This is Cate “original wisdom” — what in your career made you realize this?

CH/ Everything I read about senior leadership and engineering leadership — this is what I’ve distilled it to, because it encompasses mentorship and it encompasses technical leadership and it encompasses doing the less glamorous tasks that mean you can execute over the medium to long term.

JM/ Thank you, Cate!