Ubuntu Community Survey Next Steps: Leadership

This post is part of a series of posts discussing next steps based upon findings in the Ubuntu Community Survey Report that was released recently. The goal of these posts is to focus on solutions, and I would like to encourage your comments and discussion to be focused on areas in which we can drive solutions forward.

Let’s first discuss leadership. In the context of the community, leadership can span many different groups: the Community Council, the Technical Board, Team Councils, Canonical team leaders, and of course our SABDFL, Mark Shuttleworth.

I believe that leadership can be broken into two broad areas of focus:

  1. How accessible leadership positions in Ubuntu are (i.e. how empowered people feel to become a leader).
  2. How effective our leaders are at leading, motivating, and inspiring our community, and how equipped they feel to lead.

Let’s discuss these more.

Accessible Leadership Positions

In terms of the former, when asked about whether the respondents see themselves as leaders (45%) sometimes do and 26% definitely do. Following on, 59% of respondents were interested in becoming a leader in the Ubuntu community, and most respondents (46%) felt empowered to apply for a leadership position.

It seems that there is definitely a thirst for pursuing leadership positions in Ubuntu and I would like to investigate ways in which we can help our community feel more empowered to approach these positions. From looking at some of the reasons why people don’t feel empowered, it includes:

  • Lack of time (busy with family/personal things) — this was highlighted as the primary reason.
  • Lack of interest in participating in leadership.
  • Some highlighted that they were unaware of when new members are required for leadership positions.

While complex, I think we can improve the former two reasons here. For the first one, some people expressed that leadership meetings were at inconvenient times (e.g. during working hours) so we could explore other ways of leadership boards meeting and making decisions (e.g. reviewing decisions on a mailing list). In terms of lack of interest, I personally feel we could explore options of better articulating the importance of leadership and the role it plays in Ubuntu. We have general descriptions of each of the boards, but I suspect we could provide a more inspirational description of these boards; I feel like we don’t really sell the important function of leadership in our project, and we can improve this somewhat. Any thoughts on how we do this?

For the latter point I wonder how we can better communicate out when leadership changes are required, and maybe better inform around the expectations and opportunities of the different leadership positions. Any thoughts and ideas on how you think we could improve this?

Helping Our Leaders To Be Effective

One interesting piece of data from the survey was the kind of topics our community would like to see from our leaders. They include the following (in priority order):

  • Communicate about leadership and decisions more
  • Recognize contributions and help improve recognition
  • Helping people to succeed
  • Listen to input from the community
  • Provide motivation
  • Improve Canonical/Community relations
  • Improve Ubuntu processes
  • Provide direction
  • Identifying where people can help
  • Bring in more contributors

I think each of these different areas are valuable areas in which our leaders should empowered to lead and it would be useful to discuss approaches to how our leaders can feel equipped to advise and resolve issues in these areas. More in this in Next Steps below.

One area that I did not inquire in the survey is how effective the leaders themselves feel at leading, but my email and phone research has suggested that sometimes our leaders don’t feel motivated to lead as much as they would like. Some of this feedback suggested that leadership positions sometimes feel more administrative (merely approving/rejecting applications etc). I am keen to see how we can make our leaders feel motivated to lead.

In summary, I see some core areas of focus I would like to explore:

  1. How can we make leadership positions more accessible to our general community?
  2. How can we improve the motivation of our leaders to feel inspired to lead?
  3. How can we better support our leaders with knowledge, guidance, and support?

I believe the best way in which we can approach these topics is to work together with our leaders to explore areas in which we can focus. With our new Community Council board elected, I think this could be a good area to focus on initially. More on this below.

One other piece of feedback outlined in the survey was that sometimes the same people are elected as leaders over and over again on our community boards and maybe we should explore term limits. What do you folks think of this?

Next Steps

Based on these observations I have put in place the following next steps to get the ball rolling:

  • UDS Leadership Mini Summit – I have organized a UDS Leadership Mini Summit on the Tuesday and Thursday afternoon of UDS. The goal of these sessions is to get as many of our leaders together in the same room and discuss topics that help our leaders to lead effectively. I expect we will review much of the content from the survey, but I have also opened a call for topics – you can add your topics on this wiki page. We will review and prioritize the list of topics at the begginning of the first session on the Tuesday afternoon. I expect these sessions to generate some great focus and work for the 12.04 cycle in terms of these leadership challenges.
  • Improving BuildingCommunity – in terms of supporting our leaders with guidance and best practice, some years ago I created the Building Community wiki and back at the Dallas UDS Chris C and Penelope S contributed a lot of content to the site. Unfortunately it bit-rotted a little, so last week I proposed we work as a community to keep this as a central resource for supporting our leaders and wider community. Today in the new Ubuntu Leadership Team meeting we discussed how to focus on this site and the team will be participating in building out the content.
  • Supporting our new governors – with the new Community Council board elected I reached out to the group to see how I can more closely align myself and support the group. I proposed having a regular call with a representative of the new board, and I am going to strive to be at their meetings (timezone permitting). I think this will better align the needs of the board with my team and Canonical.

Obviously these are just some first steps, and I am keen to hear of other solutions that you folks think might help. Thanks everyone!

  • https://launchpad.net/~andrewsomething andrewsomething

    We just had a string of board elections, and one thing that really struck me was that there was no campaigning at all. While I don’t think that we need to have a competitive election atmosphere, it would be nice if candidates were required to post some sort of statement of intent. I think few candidates for the  Community Council did post something. I don’t think any DMB or Tech Board candidates even bothered to make a blog post saying why they were running.   Just because someone has strong technical skills, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they have the qualities that make a good member for the Developer Membership Board. So the main thing that people have to judge who to vote for is name recognition and personal interactions. The elections often feel more like a popularity contest to me than a way to pick our leadership.

    More generally, I think that it would help us all with our vision what the community should look like/be doing. I would imagine that quite a few people in the community have almost no idea about what the  Community Council does on a regular basis. If candidates had to discuss what they would like to accomplish on these boards, it would be a good way to start to discuss what our collective vision is.

  • Brian

    I started using Mint when Unity became default.

  • Nabilinux

    Duplicating similar bodies for youths may be a source of innovation to senior governors, who can consult them. On the other hand, this will be good for the future renewal of Ubuntu…

  • http://www.benjaminkerensa.com Benjamin Kerensa

    What will you use when Mint leaves Gnome2.32 in its next release?

    The great thing about Linux in general is it is flexible and the same applies to Ubuntu…. You can use any DE you so choose.

  • http://www.benjaminkerensa.com Benjamin Kerensa

    What will you use when Mint leaves Gnome2.32 in its next release?

    The great thing about Linux in general is it is flexible and the same applies to Ubuntu…. You can use any DE you so choose.

  • Ludevik45

    the unity shit is slowing us down……. please do something

  • Linus

    +1 unity is the buggiest software I ever saw. Nobody was willing to use that peace of shit, so we moved all PC’s to RH.

  • http://twitter.com/bachi76 Martin Bachmann

    Just now installing Mint, since Unity is not usable. Never seen such a bad usability (e.g. think of the extra mouse kilometers spent only for moving between app windows and their menus on a big dual screen setup. A pity, I loved Ubuntu. Where’s our freedom of choice gone.

  • http://twitter.com/bachi76 Martin Bachmann

    Just now installing Mint, since Unity is not usable. Never seen such a bad usability (e.g. think of the extra mouse kilometers spent only for moving between app windows and their menus on a big dual screen setup. A pity, I loved Ubuntu. Where’s our freedom of choice gone.