Browsing the blog archives for December, 2009.

Introverts as Leaders

Broader role, Geek 5

One of the Geek 5 development areas is “Broader Role”.   This sometimes plays out when a geek resists taking on a different role, because he or she is a strong introvert.  In the corporate world, extroverts tends to drive things.  Sometimes introverts feel like they have trouble getting their voices heard and sometimes they don’t even feel up to trying.  We’ll spend a lot of time talking about introversion and what you can do to change your introverted behaviors.  You may not be able to change your basic predisposition to introversion, but you can learn how to behave more like an extrovert. 

Not all geeks are introverts.  Later, we’ll talk about the Myers-Briggs and other assessments that can help you figure out where you fall.


For now, I want to point you to an interesting article at  Jennifer B. Kahnweiler wrote “Why Introverts Can Make the Best Leaders”.  She lists five characteristics of introverts that can help them be good leaders.  So if you are questioning whether or not you can be a leader, consider her five characteristics about introvert leaders:

1.  They think first, talk later.

2.  They focus on depth.

3.  They exude calm.

4.  They let their fingers do the talking (prefer writing to talking)

5.  They embrace solitude.

The article is short, but makes some interesting points about introverts as leaders.  It might also give you some examples of good leadership techniques that will play to your strengths.

Kahnweiler’s article is based on her book “The Introverted Leader: Building on Your Quiet Strength”.  I have not read the book yet, but I intend to check it out!

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Geek Fun: Star Wars Management

Geek Fun, Random

Happy Friday! has provided some sage management advice via Start Wars.  Thomas Waligum wrote What Star Wars Teaches Us About Career Management, and it offers good advice along with a good chuckle.

With my focus on development and succession planning, this was my favorite:

“But beware of the Dark Side. Anger, fear, aggression—the Dark Side of the Force are they.” -Yoda
File Under: Training and Development; Networking
Star Wars Moment: Yoda sagely instructs Luke Skywalker during his training on Dagobah, with guidance such as: “Always with you it cannot be done. Hear you nothing that I say…. You must unlearn what you have learned.” Skywalker says that he’ll try. “No!” says Yoda. “Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no try.”
Real-World Lesson: There’s a wealth of value for you in listening to the wisdom of another, older employee’s experiences—especially if that colleague has been mentoring others for 800 years. (Yoda wisdom for future Madoffs: “If once you start down the dark path forever will it dominate your destiny.”)

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Introduction to the Geek 5

Geek 5, Overview

In my experience in coaching geeks, I’ve seen five recurring themes.  Some or all of these might apply to you.  Many of my coaching suggestions will center on what I think of as the Geek 5.  If you are struggling to advance or to excel in a professional context, consider your standing on these five areas.

  1. Broader role – Geeks often prefer to stay in the cocoon of their technical specialty.  They resist giving up their expertise to move in to broader roles.  Sometimes they are pushed in a new direction and sometimes they pursue a new role to increase status and salary.  To be successful, a geek has to find peace with this decision.  In addition, geeks tend to have analytical work styles and introverted personalities.  These tendencies can make it less natural to focus on professional success strategies such as developing relationships, selling ideas and personal branding.
  2. Organizational savvy – Organizational savvy is about understanding how businesses or organizations work – and specifically how to get things done easily and effectively  in your workplace.  Some geeks refer to this as “playing politics” and cringe at the thought. “Politics” does not have to be a dirty word.  Organizational savvy is about understanding how to get things done, build networks, communicate effectively and protect yourself.  You’ve got to learn the rules of the game in order to win.
  3.  Managing people – Technical experts often make it to a mid-career point as well-paid individual contributors.  They are responsible for their own production, performance and success.  When they move into their first role managing other people, they are often missing basic knowledge around directing the work of others, delegating, communicating expectations, having performance conversations and developing their direct reports.  Managing people well is not an easy thing to learn – and it is not as clear-cut as technical knowledge.  A chemist who knows that two chemicals will always react the same way can struggle when two employees need completely different management styles. 
  4. Leadership skills – With a narrow technical focus, geeks are often not stretched into bigger leadership roles.  Leadership means setting a vision and clarity of intent for the organization or group, so everyone is moving in the same direction.  It involves building cross-functional relationships and always considering the systemic impact of decisions.  It involves strategy and motivating others.  It is often fuzzy to define, but yet remains critical to success.  Leadership skills are gained through experience and by learning from other leaders.
  5. Business acumen – Geeks who are not already in financial and business areas often lack basic business and financial fundamentals.  Moving into higher level roles or getting attention outside a technical area, requires geeks to think about bigger organizational issues.  This often involves an ability to understand and discuss financial metrics like EPS, EBIT, Margin, etc.  If you don’t know what these are, my point is made.  Go look them up.
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