Here are 3 traits that I think can make an SRE leader highly effective:
Thinking beyond the current Sprint. Whether or not you work in Sprints, your leader will look well beyond the month ahead in terms of the work to be done. Ideally, their decisions today will account for the needs of your team/s for the next 6-12 months but it can vary. A technical lead might look 2-3 Sprints ahead while a director-level might look >2 years ahead.
Thinking about the entire system. Or they think as broadly across the system as their cognitive load allows them to. While you can have a leader focused on key areas like incident response, it’s critical they are reasonably well versed with the full spectrum of SRE capabilities. At least enough to place and guide engineers with an aim toward optimal productivity.
Reducing friction with product teams. They work true to the DevOps philosophy. That means continually improving developer participation in good production software. They might embed SREs in individual squads (a little hard to do with limited manpower) or (more likely) higher up the chain to work with multiple squads or the release train engineer.
Bonus trait: Effective SRE leaders are positive thinkers. They are not cynics. There is no room for that in keeping things UP. Cynics risk becoming doomsday poets and when a system needs fixing and nurturing, that is not a helpful trait. Yes, they can be sceptical about how things are but that should serve as a means to find a better way.
What have been your experiences when working under an SRE leader? Have you worked with one who’s displayed 2 or more of these effectiveness traits?
I’m curious. Hit reply or comment and let’s chat.