Poor Predictors of Good Leadership

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This week’s chapter is about shaping future technical leaders. Because I talked about the different indicators of potentially good or bad leadership for our presentation this week, I decided it would be a good topic to go more into detail with in this week’s blog. I decided I would focus more on the indicators of a potentially

This week’s chapter is about shaping future technical leaders. Because I talked about the different indicators of potentially good or bad leadership for our presentation this week, I decided it would be a good topic to go more into detail with in this week’s blog. I decided I would focus more on the indicators of a potentially poor leader simply because that comes first in the chapter and seems simpler to unpack. First, the book tells us that technical geniuses probably are going to make poor leaders, even if he is leading other technical geniuses. The common misconception is that a technical genius will be able to use his talents to improve the abilities of those he is leading. This really does not work. Could this genius potentially teach others what he knows? Sure, if he were capable of teaching in the first place. A big problem with that thought is that most geniuses, especially tech geniuses, have a hard time communicating in the first place, let alone teaching. Most of these genius people were hardly taught themselves. In order to be an incredible genius, you normally need to start with a lot of native skills. After that, those skills can be fine tuned into something amazing.

Next, the book tells us how a great education does not necessarily transfer to being a great leader. At first this statement shocked me. There are degrees out there specifically for management. How could that not make you a good leader? Then the book went on to explain that a managerial education is different than real managerial experience. My favorite quote so far this semester comes from this section. The author says, ” A degree from and elite school might indicate raw intelligence but not necessarily hard work.”   I enjoy this quote so much because it is so true. I know I am this way. I have had to work slightly harder in college than I did in high school, but for the most part I just sort of show up to class, do the bare minimum homework, and get the grades. I have  never put any extra effort into a class. I have only studied for one class in my life, and calling it studying may have been a stretch. I just know things. I do not know how I know them, I just know them. So just because someone has earned a prestigious management degree does not mean they know anything more than just the theory behind management. Or they may just be really good at getting great grades on minimal work. Either way, they may not actually know what they are talking about, therefore, education is not a good way to guess whether or not someone will be a good leader.

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Next, the book warns us that someone with a dominating personality and dominating desire to lead may be someone to avoid when choosing a new leader. Just wanting to do something does not make you good at it. I really want to fly a plane, but would you trust me with the controls of an aircraft? The desire to lead and control people normally does not bode too well with the people that you are trying to lead and control. This is especially true when talking about technical people. Geeks do not respect authority anyway, so if you act like some big hot-shot, you probably will just get made fun of.

Finally, the book tells us that charismatic people normally will not make good leaders. I find this interesting because when you search for “when is charisma good in the workplace,” you get tons of links for tips to become a more charismatic leader.  So what is charisma and why is it bad? Charisma is a compelling attractiveness or charm that can inspire devotion in others. Basically, you can charm your way through any situation. The reason this is not good for a technical leader relates back to a geek’s different style of communication with others. Geeks do not respond to charm the same as other people. They are much more concerned with someone’s ability than charm.

As with anything in life, not all of these will be the same for everyone. This is just a rough guide to what does not make a good leader in the technical world. Just remember, what works with normal people normally does not work with geeks.

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