Be a better technology leader

Develop the skills you need to more effectively lead teams of technical and creative people.

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Good leadership is not about telling others what to do.

Nor is it about having all the answers.

And it sure isn't about protecting your own ego.

Then what is it?

Leadership is about developing your own personal growth path, and inspiring the personal growth of others. Good leaders model the behavior they want to see in their people. They ask questions. They admit when they are wrong. And most important, they put the needs of others first.

Your path to success as a leader starts with learning how to understand other people better, and how to motivate them to succeed by bringing out their strengths and helping them overcome their weaknesses. The best way to learn about and improve yourself is to serve others.

How did you get here?

There is a good chance you were promoted into a leadership role because you were a particularly good individual contributor. One day the boss called you into their office and said, “I am putting you in charge of such-and-such.”

And boom! You’re a manager.

Now what? You don't get leadership training in most schools by default. And images of bosses from our popular culture are nearly all wrong. You can’t march around shouting and telling people what to do all day. It just doesn’t work. But you do need to manage people toward accomplishing their common goals.

Generic leadership training doesn't fit your situation.

Managing teams of creative and technical people is hard. Product development is its own unique context. Most leadership training out there is basic and generic.

It doesn’t apply to the unique context of fast-moving and dynamic technical companies.

It doesn't address the complex workflows in today's digital product companies.

It is designed for people in more traditional roles.

Technology leadership is unique.

Product development is a very complex and ever-changing environment. The skillful people who work in this field are particularly demanding, both of themselves and of their leaders.

Leaders of technology and product development groups need to be excellent not only technology and process, but also those incrediby hard so-called "soft skills" too!

That's why we created this master class for emerging technology leaders like you.

This is a 10-week program stuctured around weekly online sessions. Reading materials will be referenced, but are not required.

Topics include:

  • Discovering your purpose and orienting yourself as a leader. Goal setting and professional development.
  • Making change in a large organization. How to lead by influence rather than authority.
  • Learning tools for greater focus and deeper impact. Personal focus, mindfulness, and value-based outcomes.
  • Hiring for culture and future fit. Developing hiring models for retention and growth.
  • Creating a growth-mindset culture, and encouraging psychological safety.
  • How to have difficult conversations. Giving and getting feedback.
  • Mentorship, delegation, and succession planning. Coaching and developing future leaders.
  • How to manage up and influence executives. Tools for enabling transparency and communicating clearly and concisely.

Those who take the class experience a major change.

We've had some direct promotions. Several folks negotiated changes into entirely new and broader roles within their organization. Some have interviewed for more senior leadership roles in other companies and won offers. Each of these folks had hands-on coaching, and the support of their classmates week over week, and that contributed significantly to the positive outcomes.

One participant in the class, when we asked about his goal for the rest of the class, shared this with me:

“I was initially going to say [my goal is] to get a new job I like more than my current job. Now I would say to clarify my purpose… I would love to have a more inspirational personal north star.

Another participant—the one who had been the most skeptical about being able to make the time for the class each week—confided in me that the 1-hour call is the one meeting he looks forward to the most every week.

If something like this sounds compelling to you, if you’re in a place in your career where it’s time to get to the next level, there is still space available for the next cohort. Don’t wait too long. Space is limited.

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Sam McAfee is an experienced technology and product leader based in Oakland CA, and is the founder of Startup Patterns. He's been working in technology innovation in Silicon Valley since the first “dot­com boom” in 2000. Sam combines strong engineering capability, team and organizational leadership skills, and a keen business acumen with a laser­like focus on core product development principles from leading product development methodologies like Agile and the Lean Startup. He's helped teams at companies like Adobe, Sharethrough, PG&E, SAP, Microsoft, Follett Education, and many more.

Sam McAfee

He's also a regular speaker at product and technology conferences, and regularly gives public workshops on technology and product topics. Speaking engagements include QCon NY and SF, the Lean Startup Conference, and Lean Kanban North America. He's a frequent speaker for the startup training programs at Product School, Galvanize and InnoWest, and a mentor at Singularity University. His talks are available on Slide Share.

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Source Material

The course curriculum is derived from the following sources. No, these are not required. But if you want to get the upper hand, here is some reading that will prepare you for the class...

The Self

Greg McKeown, Essentialism

Remove things from your life that don’t move you toward your purpose.

Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow

Of the two systems in your mind, system one is biased, scared, and emotional, and system two is methodical but easily tired.

Carol Dweck, Mindset

People have either a fixed or growth mindset and it greatly affects everything they do.

Lisa Feldman Barrett, How Emotions Are Made

Thinking and feeling are, neurologically speaking, the same thing to your brain.

Amy Cuddy, Presence

Everyone suffers from imposter syndrome. Here’s how to fix it.

Gay Hendricks, The Big Leap

Successful people are often held back by their own limiting beliefs.


Eric Berne, Games People Play

People follow the life scripts inadvertently laid down by their parents. Games are patterns that evoke an emotional payoff based on these life scripts.

Chris Voss, Never Split The Difference

Negotiations depend on gaining trust through building empathy.

Kim Scott, Radical Candor

Provide feedback that is based in a genuine interest in the person's well-being.

Adam Grant, Give and Take

Successful people tend to give more freely than they ask for things in return.


Gen. Stanley McChrystal (ret), Team of Teams

Hierarchical organizations will fail to adapt to a networked world. Breaking down functional silos and opening up information is critical to flexibility.

Daniel Pink, Drive

Hierarchical organizations will fail to adapt to a networked world. Breaking down functional silos and opening up information is critical to flexibility.

Eli Goldratt, The Goal

The throughput of a system is governed by its bottlenecks.


David Marquet, Turn the Ship Around

Move the authority to where the information is.

Brené Brown, Dare to Lead

Leaders need to embrace their vulnerability.

Venkatesh Rao, The Gervais Principle

Senior executives, managers, and individual contributors see the world very differently and speak different languages.

Robert Kaplan, What to Ask the Person in the Mirror

Leaders need to have a clear vision, and delegate to a clear successor. Build reflection time into your schedule or it just won’t happen.

Stephen R. Covey, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

Start with the end in mind. Seek to understand before seeking to be understood.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience

Challenges must be fit to skill level, and focus is everything.


W. Edwards Deming, Out of the Crisis

Quality of output depends on the configuration of the system more than the performance of the individuals within it. Empowered workers make better improvement suggestions than their bosses do.

Taiichi Ohno, Toyota Production System

Continuous improvement starts with the tiniest of modest steps, but it never ever ends.

Peter Drucker, Post-Capitalist Society

The knowledge economy has rendered the middle manager obsolete.

Don Reinertsen, Flow: Principles of Lean Product Development

Knowledge work is physically invisible but follows many of the same principles from lean manufacturing.

Jeff Liker and Gary Convis, Toyota Way to Lean Leadership

Toyota leaders follow a rigorous coaching model that focuses on serving others and employing a growth mindset.

Jez Humble, Joanne Molesky, and Barry O'Reilly, Lean Enterprise

Organizations must embrace both continuous improvement and continuous delivery.

William H. Whyte, The Organization Man

A form of manager exists who strongly allies him/herself with that of the organization.

Space is limited, so don't wait to get in touch!

Apply Now

Let's Get In Touch!

Ready to talk? Shoot me an email or just use the calendar link to book a call.