Leadership Training Possibility

I know a few people in the SQL Server community who have been involved in Scouting. A couple of them have taken or helped lead Scoutings leadership training program known as Wood Badge. It’s an amazing program. I won’t even attempt to tell you what Wood Badge has done for me and what it does for Scouting. Suffice to say, Wood Badge helped to make me a better person and in return, I helped make Scouting better.

What’s this have to do with SQL Server? Not much really. But, what does it have to do with you and your career? Tons.

It was pointed out to me that there’s an Oracle users group that actually runs a leadership program. You can read about it here.

It strikes me that, maybe this is something we in the SQL Community ought to have. I’m posting this to see what kind of interest there is, if any. So if you regularly just read this blog and never post, sorry, today is the day it’ll really matter if you respond. So please, read through my general thoughts and let me know what you think.

First up, this needs to cover generic leadership principals such as vision, planning, communication, goals and measures and all the rest. It’s not about management. It’s about leadership. These are different and will be differentiated. This also has to have available some mentors, people who volunteer to monitor & guide attendees through the process. There will probably also be volunteers leading the classes, possibly independent of the list of mentors, we’ll see. Additional training would be on, well, easier to say what it won’t be on. It won’t be on speaking, technical stuff of any kind, or any company or technology. Instead, it would be about leading, maybe community building, running a user group, setting up and running an event, that sort of thing. It’s not going to be a single class. It’s going to take time. Let’s say, somewhere between 6 months to a year of commitment to the leadership courses (done remotely, anything else is too insane for me to consider managing) and then another 6 months committed to delivering on your project(s). And yes, this means that there will be an expected amount of work to be delivered as part of the whole thing. I’m not suggesting holding a class and then printing out certificates. I’m suggesting something similar to Wood Badge, something that you would be proud to put on your resume, something you’d be clamoring to help out with after you complete it. One more thought, it would be best if we could get an organization to back it. Barring that, we’d need to create an organization to back it. There would probably have to be a charge for this, and not a trivial one either (I haven’t thought it through, but let’s say more than $500, less than $5000, figure it out as needed). It won’t be open to anyone. I suppose an open call for application, but since it requires commitment, it might be invite only. Something to talk about. It needs a name.

This is not a course outline or an abstract. It’s really just a stream of thoughts to act as the starting point towards building a structure. My question to you is, what’s the interest? Please post. If I get my usual three responses, I’ll just write this off as an idea that won’t fly and move on.

41 thoughts on “Leadership Training Possibility

  • Andy Yun


    I think something like this is a fantastic idea. As a community, we already informally foster & nurture not only technical skills, but speaking & presentation skills. Leadership would be another fantastic skill for our community to actively focus on, especially given our structure of User Groups and Chapter Leaders all around the world.

    Let me know how I can assist you – you know where to find me.

  • I think this is a great idea. But, I can see how this could become divisive in the community. How do we pick who gets to go? We’ve seen how much complaints there can be whenever we pick anything in this organization (Although I think at least the complaints in public has become better).

    Is this something we would send incoming board members to?
    Random people that have shown interest picked? By whom?
    Purely pay to go, first with the payment goes to the next class?

  • Pat Phelan

    I’m definitely interested from both perspectives (leader and learner). I’ve had and also taught leadership training, and see leadership as an ongoing process instead of as an achievement. In my experience, if you think that you are a leader then you aren’t… If others see you as a leader, then you are!

  • Mala

    Grant, I am interested and be glad to assist and learn in any way I can. Our community has a treasure of leadership skills but most are picked up informally – it would help to have formal focus and learn/share. You know my contact info. Thanks.

  • Allen White

    It’s a great idea, Grant, and perhaps it could be implemented by PASS during the Summit, as a side activity outside of conference session times, like the “SIG Challenge” was done back in 2003. If you can come up with a more concrete description of the deliverables, it’d help, because the leadership aspects are essentially a side-effect of the exercise. I like where you’re going with this, though.

  • Thanks for all the feedback so far.

    One response. Notice, I didn’t say PASS in my outline above. This is an idea. If there’s interest, I can try to push it on PASS, but I’m trying to avoid this being “Grant the Board Member says…” This is “Grant the Yahoo says…” Is there a natural tie back to PASS? I think so. But I don’t want to limit this or force anyone’s thinking in that direction.

  • Stellar Grant, absolutely stellar. I literally just posed this question to a few people for advice on this very topic. I would have extreme interest in both from a helping perspective and learning prospective. Many people in this community have a thirst to learn techniques such as this along with several who would like to lead. I have a saying right now with the team I’m involved with “All In”. This would be one of those things I would be “All In” on. I will be interested to see how the inner workings are laid out and thought through.

  • Good point on the deliverables Allen.

    One example would be:
    I want to improve the knowledge level within my company. In order to make this happen, I’m going to put together and deliver a series of ‘lunch & learns’ over the next 4 months featuring four different speakers.

    This is a measurable goal with clear deliverables and one that a mentor could help someone achieve. It teaches leadership AND helps promote someone’s image within their organization. It doesn’t require any level of institutional power, just personal power (and the lesson on the difference between person & institutional power would be part of the course). Part of the course would be to come up with three things like this that require leadership.

    Other ideas could be; start a user group/meetup, grow the size of your existing user group/meetup, start to lead a committee with a volunteer organization. Stuff like that.

  • Grant, it’s long overdue. I think it has to be scoped and focused appropriate to the leadership roles we have. I’ve long dreamed of something along the lines of the US Army’s schools system where you go back to school each time you get promoted, plus others when you need to add skills.

    It’s not fair to put people in roles and then just hope for the best.

  • Jes Borland

    Grant, as you know, I think this idea has merit. It will be a lot of work for the founders, the volunteers, the mentors. I also think it will be – and should be – work for the people who want to learn the leadership skills.

    I read the article about the Wood Badge, and the sentence that stuck out was, “Learning by doing.” That is how we learned SQL Server. That is how we should learn leadership.

    What are your ideas on projects that could help us learn by doing? I see things like volunteering to assist your local PASS chapter; volunteering to assist a virtual PASS chapter; volunteering to help run a SQL Saturday, SharePoint Saturday, or Code Camp; volunteering for a PASS committee. Anything else?

  • I think that the idea is grand. I also believe that keeping it apart from PASS (at least for a period of time) would be wise. This way it allows for focus on what needs to be accomplished, without the overhead that being part of the big org would bring. It would also help in that the program would not be held under a microscope, allowing for decisions to get made by those that need to make them, keeping the whole thing agile (lower case a).
    Probably the biggest question I would have around something like this is how to address the potential audience, and who that potential audience would be. Are we talking someone a couple of years into the game? A long timer who’s been around the block a bit? What about MVPs?

  • Grant, this is an excellent idea.

    I would love to participate, as both learner and perhaps a leader. My hit-and-miss experience with leading a user group and organizing two SQL Saturdays has taught me a few lessons I could share with others.

  • I really like this idea. Perhaps it could be linked to SQL Sat events some how and when people attend they could sit in on a meeting and check in on their progress. I agree that there should be a price tag attached, maybe with some scholarships.

  • Yaroslav

    Great idea! Yes, I’m on of the silent readers of the blog. And yes, I’m all in, more on the learner part. Will follow up and see what arises from this interesting proposal.

  • Neil Hambly

    Hi Grant
    I personally believe we ALL need others to help us become firstly better individuals and then choose to also become a leader and the skills to do this effectively is often best achieved with a teacher/mentor and student approach and something that can be made available to folks such as those in the SQL community is a GREAT idea, I would definitely be interested in helping in anyways I could
    As Professional Development VC leader I strive to find ways to help others achieve their own ProfDev goals, this is another example of ‘leadership by example’ with a willing army of volunteers to help others with the same interests
    Events such as SQL Saturdays and Summits do offer us opportunities to reach out and share not just on those technical levels but on a more ‘personal skills’ level

  • Tammy Cravit

    I think this is a great idea, and would love to participate – both as a leader and a learner, because I’m not totally convinced it’s ever possible to be one without also being the other.

  • josh smith

    I think this is great idea. Are you thinking this something for more seasoned DBAs or that it may be for folks earlier in their career as well?

  • Robert French

    Late as ever 🙂 Just to add my 2 pennies. This is an excellent idea, something that l do not see being done enough in IT generally or business for that matter. Not enough people are taught how to lead, yes some things cannot be taught. In my career so far l have learned by trial and error, not the easy way to learn but it is effective! Given that all points l would have made have been said by others. All l can add is I would love to be involved .

  • Grant

    As a Wood Badge Beaver and a 2 time staffer, all I can say is “THIS IS A FANTASTIC IDEA”

    The “skill set” taught during Wood Badge are not Scouting skills. As they can be used in Scouting they most definitely are more applicable to the real world.

    I can think of many people who could benefit from this!

    If you ever get the momentum going, COUNT ME IN!

  • Grant, one more thought. I believe that this should be “PASS Leader” training. I see from the comments there is a definite need for general leadership training and I’d like to see that evolve on it’s own, just as technical training has. But I think we need to provide very specific training for PASS leaders and those who want to be PASS leaders. There is crossover of course, but the focus matters.


  • Andy,
    I think that making it PASS specific puts a very tight focus on it. Not everyone would want to be a PASS leader, for whatever reasons.
    If there’s going to be PASS leaders training then it should be handled directly by the org (Grant’s post here indicating that this is something he was looking to do outside of the PASS structure).

  • Nic & Andy,

    If I had a magic wand and could just dictate what happens, I’d make this a PASS Leadership training thing (still need a name). The main reason I’d do this is two-fold. First, and most important, I really believe in service-oriented leadership. That means, to a degree, some volunteer aspects have to be involved with being a true leader. Second, and this frankly less important, I think having an organization back the course will help to make it more of a resume marker that people will use.

    But, based on the comments here and a few emails I’ve received, I think this is something that’s going to get put together, whether it’s directly a part of PASS or only tangentially associated.

    Fair warning. I’m going on a three week trip, two weeks of it being holiday with the family. If I stop responding on here for a little while, don’t panic. I’ll be back.

  • Kirsten

    Grant – It’s an excellent idea. This is a glaring hole in the offerings of the SQL world. It’d be amazing to learn how to turn oneself from a soldier in the trenches to a valuable community member.

  • Grant,

    Great idea and I think it would provide great value to people who might be interested in learning about leadership.

    I would love to be considered as an attendees but sure I could provide some help on the other side with lessons learned from all my community work.

  • Tone Hansson


    I’ve read your post and comments with great interest and excitement. Leadership training consisting of both a theoretic and practical approach provides great value, and it will benefit not only the trainee, but also the trainer/mentor and their surroundings at work, at home and everywhere in between. Count me in, I’d like to contribute in every way I can!

    However, leadership training is already out there. It is available to everyone in every thinkable shape and form through other communities and training facilities. And unfortunately, a new leadership program won’t be great just by branding it with “SQL Server community”. On that note, what strikes me as highly relevant and important, is to, from day one, be clear and concise on the goals, gain and intended outcome from implementing a leadership training program in context of this community. Answering questions like “what sets the program apart from the crowd”, “what makes the community fit for this”, “which theoretical foundation meets the goals of this particular community” and so forth. With a clear vision and goal, carried out by an iterative, agile approach to program planning and implementation, you’re/we’re up and running.

    Great initiative, interesting ideas and if done well, it could be amazing! I’m all in 🙂

  • Tone,

    That’s amazing feedback.

    Let me know when you get that done. Ha! Kidding.

    Seriously though, I think you’ve pretty much nailed task #1, define the vision of exactly what this will be.

  • John Halunen

    Following on Tone’s thoughts, creating something as good as Wood Badge remotely, and especially if you want to follow it’s concept of learning by doing seems like a big task. Maybe jump start the process by partnering with BSA to do a few onsite Wood Badge programs with the point being to use those people to start training in other geographic areas?

  • Sir,

    This is an amazing idea. It’s the main reason why I focused primarily on professional development topics when I started speaking at the PASS Summit. I’ve created and taught leadership workshops in the past but would very much interested in this given the changing landscape of leadership in the technical field. I’ll be supporting this initiative when it becomes a reality.

  • Greg

    I love this idea. I’m frequently consumer of the plentiful resources in SQL community. And I feel like I should pay it back, but also wonder what I would have of value to add.

  • Grant, this is a phenomenal idea!

    Two things jump out at me as important here. First, you talk about this being leadership training, and specifically call out that it would not be management. Many places offer training that they call “leadership” but is really training for management. There is a distinct difference between the two. If we can keep the focus on leadership, that would be a significant differentiator.

    The second thing that I noticed from the discussion is that there are a large number of us that want to be both leaders and learners, myself included. There are few people who are expert leaders, but there are many who have had success in certain areas. Perhaps we could use that – make it a collaborative series of workshops, with one or two people acting as organizers/faciliators/moderators to keep it moving forward.

    I think this may be best organized outside of PASS. PASS could certainly be a supporter, and I think it would be a major beneficiary. However, it falls well outside of our core mission, and having a direct association with PASS would effectively limit its growth outside of our community. I think many tech communities, companies, and other organizations could benefit from this if it’s done well. Have user groups, SQLSaturdays, and the like be applications and outcomes of the training (and possibly projects in the training), rather than the focus.

    Bottom line: Count me in! I’d love to be a part of this.

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