Open Source leadership, and making the tough calls

Mark Shuttleworth, the guy behind Ubuntu, shows us once again what an Open Source leader is.

There are some decisions that are necessarily unpopular, but are important to prepare the future. Being unpopular does not necessarily means being bad, but it definitely means going against the opinion of some people, which is quite important if you want to get things done. No wonder that in just a few years, Ubuntu has gone from a _ZERO_ user base to being the most widely used Linux distribution. Compare it with Debian trends, which tries to satisfy everybody and use voting as its main decision tool.

But unlike politics who most often do not have the courage to make the tough calls, most of the successful Open Source projects leaders have the balls to enforce their vision, even if it means being heavily criticized. The reason is quite simple : what counts in the end is not the surrounding politics or perception of the community, but the actual effect of the decisions.  Open Source is a meritocratic environment where the good ideas win in the end.

“On that particular decision, we’ll have to let time tell. For the moment, the decision stands. I’m the first to admit fallibility but I also know that it would be impossible to get consensus around a change like that. If those tooltips are, on balance, really just clutter, then unless someone is willing to take a decision that will be unpopular, they will be clutter forever. And it’s easier for me to make a decision like that in Ubuntu than for virtually anybody else. I apologise in advance for the mistakes that I will certainly make, and which others on the design team may make too, but I think it’s important to defend our willingness to pare things back and let the core, essential goodness shine through.”

Of course, good leaders must also publicly admit when they’re wrong, and Linus Torvalds, another successful open source leader, has shown us his ability to admit it when he made the wrong calls.

“and sometimes make the wrong call, but if so, he’s proved willing to publicly admit his mistakes.”

One Response to “Open Source leadership, and making the tough calls”

  1. [...] realized by reading my previous posts, when it comes to managing software projects, my ideas are largely inspired from the Open Source movement, especially if we are talking of big, distributed projects involving many developers. When [...]

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