{July 15, 2010}   Akademy 2010 and the Myth of the +20 Charisma Underpants

It’s been less than a week since akademy ended, and already it seems like forever. Vancouver’s finally figured out that it’s supposed to be summer, and I’ve got lots of friends to catch up with over then next couple of weeks (having a job makes everything else so hard to schedule :P ) but part of me wishes I could go back already. :) There was hacking and partying and talking and cooking and singing and dancing and, of course, hugs! :)

Now that I’m back home I’m remembering all sorts of things I didn’t do at akademy… but.. I think it was actually a very good akademy nonetheless. Other people have blogged about things they accomplished, so I’ll skip that – but what did I accomplish?

Well, I got some bugs fixed, that was good. I found out that webodf could be useful to owncloud – that certainly made me more motivated in my job. :) I discussed activities with the netbook and mobile guys, and we figured out what approach to take. But I think the most important thing I did was some cat-herding. Not that I did it, really, but that I discovered I could do it. :)

There’s a running joke in KDE that Aaron has +20 charisma underpants. :) He’s a leader, a motivator, he’s so good with people; there must be something special about him.

Well, guess what: There isn’t.

He’s just this guy, you know? Any one of us can learn to do the things he does. It may not be easy, but it can be done. Mostly it just takes a little thought and a lot of stubbornness. ;)

I always thought of myself as the shy one, the invisible one; I only got into leadership positions when people were trying to keep someone else out of them; I thought I was hopelessly bad at all that people stuff. However, being in plasma, I’ve started to try these things anyways – and at akademy I discovered I’ve actually gained the ability to do some of them. :) I got people together and led a meeting; I made people get up and talk at the plasma bof session; I was still nervous at times, but I ignored that and got stuff done anyways, and somehow it worked. :)

These things won’t work smoothly the first time, of course – but that’s life. And the great thing about KDE is, you can try something and fail at it and people will come in and help out and maybe even show you how to do it better next time. Or at least not kill you for it. ;) We don’t have much of a hierarchy, so if you want to learn to do something, you just start doing it; and when you get stuck, you just have to ask for help.

I think another part of the reason I’ve been willing to try these things has been my martial arts training. I joined for the exercise, but it’s been good in other ways too. Our sensei doesn’t just teach us martial arts, but gives us the opportunity to teach others. Experienced students help the less-experienced ones, during practice or when sensei’s busy helping someone else. On our tests, we’re expected to know how to explain certain techniques to others. When practicing forms, we take turns leading. So, when our sensei isn’t well, one of us can take over and run the class for a bit. :) Not only does this build our self-confidence, it keeps things running smoothly.

The same thing can happen in free software communities, although it doesn’t happen on its own. Leadership and maintenance duties are something we all can learn – and should, because people come and go, and nobody can be around all the time. When many people in the community can take over a role as needed (they don’t have to be perfect at it, just somewhat competent) then we have a stronger community, one that isn’t dependent on any single mortal human. :)

So, get out there and try new things! If something needs to be done, volunteer for it. If something that was supposed to happen didn’t, go make it happen. Step out of your comfort zone, learn, and have fun. :) And remember: we can do this.

Diederik van der Boor says:

+2 :) Nicely said! We can do this! :D

Aaron Seigo says:

Awesome post, and right on the mark. Leadership skills are indeed learnable, they are not something one is innately born with (or not born with). Like any skill it can be developed.

I’m very happy and proud to watch the people of Plasma starting to exhibit more and more confidence and mastery of these skills as time goes on.

You guys rock :)

Ryan Rix says:

It’s still nice to picture you in +20 charisma underpants, Aaron. :P

if he really has those is a +20 carisma kde-branded tong, as he blogged once :p

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