Leading Geeks | Paul Glen

Summary of: Leading Geeks: How to Manage and Lead the People Who Deliver Technology: How to Manage and Lead People Who Deliver Technology
By: Paul Glen


Dive into the world of ‘Leading Geeks’ by Paul Glen, which offers invaluable insights into managing and leading invaluable technology-oriented employees more commonly known as ‘geeks’. Explore the distinct and unconventional characteristics of geeks along with why they prove to be an indispensable addition to modern companies. Understand the importance of creating a tripartite relationship between leaders, geeks, and their abstract and technical work. Walkthrough the challenges these unique individuals face within organizations and learn the key leadership responsibilities that can create a harmonious working relationship.

Managing Geeks

Geeks are specialists in technology who play a critical role in a company’s innovation. However, they can be challenging to lead and manage due to their distinct personalities and independent minds. Unlike other employees, geeks require guidance and overall strategy to direct their creativity instead of being controlled with power. Geek leadership is different, and geeks’ behavior plays a minor role in successful geekwork. As a leader, understanding the unique characteristics of geeks is vital for effective management.

Leading Geeks

The book emphasizes the need for a tripartite relationship between leaders, geeks, and geekwork within organizations. Conventionally, leadership is viewed as a relationship between two parties, but the creative, abstract, and technical nature of geekwork demands a unique dynamic. The key to leading geeks is to provide internal facilitation and external representation, and focus on harmonizing content and context. A leader’s job is to nurture motivation and manage task, structural, and environmental ambiguity. Geeks deliver technological innovation and are crucial to a company’s future. They function best when they understand the organization’s mission, vision, and values, and see their roles in the organization. Therefore, the leader must encourage geeks to make sense of their workplace so they can focus more freely on handling the company’s technical demands.

Understanding Geeks

Geeks are a unique group of people with distinct personalities, attitudes, and values. They have a passion for reason and problem-solving and are highly curious and love puzzles. Although they may lack social skills, they are loyal to their profession, and fairness is crucial to them. They have a different outlook on work and are drawn to rebel against the ordinary rules, procedures, and routines. They also prefer communicating in a direct, blunt, and even insensitive way. Working in teams, maintaining democracy, or peer recognition is vital to them. As a leader, focus on what needs to be accomplished and let geeks work their way towards it.

Geeks have a unique set of personalities and values that differentiate them from the rest of the crowd. They have an intense passion for reason, which paradoxically is based on emotions. They embrace rationality to know, be certain, and be right. Problem-solving is second nature to them, and they tend to use the problem-solution model to organize any event. It is not a surprise that geeks love puzzles and are highly curious. These qualities stem from their love for intellectual activities, creativity, and logic.

Most geeks achieved early success in their life, which means they may lack some social skills that others learn over time. However, their head start provides them with a childlike outlook, making them curious and playful. Unfortunately, this can also make them insensitive, condescending, and lacking in self-awareness. They have an unusual approach to communication, where they tend to express things in a direct and even insensitive way. They tend to confuse facts and opinions and are highly judgmental, which can lead to interpersonal conflicts.

Geeks’ primary loyalty is to technology and their profession rather than any company, and they want to feel fairly compensated. The way geeks work is unique and different from ordinary work. They are drawn to values and images that rebel against the usual organizational policies and structures. Geeks dislike decisions imposed from above, preferring instead to have a group of technical leaders who influence others based on meritocracy.

Being introverts, many geeks prefer working alone or on tasks or problems that one person can handle. Working in teams, maintaining democracy, or receiving peer recognition is crucial to them. They tend to be ambivalent about joining groups but enjoy being part of project teams where they can learn from each other, work on complex problems, and gain peer recognition.

As a leader, your primary focus should be on what needs to be accomplished and not on governing how geeks work. Their approach is unique, and being micromanaged may impede the success of the project. Therefore, it’s essential to understand geeks, their values, personalities, and attitudes, and allow them to work their way towards the end goal.

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