Category: Musings

Management vs. Leadership


“I’m suspicious of all the mother-hen types: they want to nurture their teams, but tend to smother them. And I’m suspicious of the overly-organized types: they want to bring process to chaos, but process stifles invention, and it can be used to disguise incompetence for an entire career. I’m suspicious of empire builders; too often they lower their hiring bar. I’ve heard or seen a hundred reasons for becoming a manager, and I now view all of them with suspicion, because each reason is a potential psychological problem waiting to manifest itself on a soon-to-be-unhappy engineering team.

“I know some of good managers, even great ones, and none of them are managing. They’re leading, and there’s a world of difference. You’ve heard a hundred clichéd descriptions of leadership, but you probably also know at least one or two people you consider great leaders, so you know intuitively how it can work via their examples. And if you know enough great leaders, you know there are vastly different styles at work.

“I won’t try to characterize those styles here; it would take us too far afield. But I think the best managers don’t want to manage: they want to lead. In fact most leaders probably don’t think about it much, at least at first, because they’re too busy leading: rushing headlong towards a goal and leading everyone around them in that direction, whether they’re on the team or not. Leadership stems from having a clear vision, strong convictions, and enough drive and talent to get your ideas and goals across to a diverse group of people who can help you achieve them. If you have all that, you’re close. Then you just need empathy so you don’t work everyone to death. If you’re a great leader, you can put the whip away; everyone will give you everything they’ve got.

“Put in that light, management no longer seems so glamorous, does it? Ironically, “I want to be a manager” is just about the worst sentiment a would-be manager could possibly express, because the statement has absolutely nothing to do with leadership. A leader doesn’t fixate on management, which is after all just a bureaucratic framework that attempts to simulate leadership through process and protocol. Great teams building great things don’t worry about process. They just build whatever it is as fast as they can.”

–From a comment on Leading from the trenches.

Photo credit

Personality types and their art preferences

low budget artwork

“We consume books, movies, music, and visual art primarily to fulfill the internal emotional needs that are fundamental to our personalities. But we also make choices about art based on a desire to carve out identities for ourselves—to articulate the stories of our lives. By the same token, we look for those stories in others. We also feel intuitively that we can judge others by their tastes. …

“People high in neuroticism—less emotionally stable people who are anxious, sensitive, and easily upset—tend to be artistically creative and gravitate toward emotionally turbulent art, including films, songs, and literature often seen as romantic, according to Burt’s research. They decorate their living spaces with inspirational posters bearing messages like, “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference,” or, “Until you spread your wings, you’ll never know how far you can fly.” These self-affirmations help neurotic people manage their tendency to worry and become blue, explains Gosling. “The posters are a visual form of self-medication.”

Accounting for Taste on Psychology Today.

Photo: Truth Hurts.

Numbers don’t lie, but they don’t tell the whole story either

no man is an island

No man, proclaimed Donne, is an island, and he was wrong. If we were not islands, we would be lost, drowned in each other’s tragedies. We are insulated (a word that means, literally, remember, made into an island) from the tragedy of others, by our island nature, and by the repetitive shape and form of the stories. The shape does not change: there was a human being who was born, lived, and then, by some means or another, died. There. You may fill in the details from your own experience. As unoriginal as any other tale, as unique as any other life…

Without individuals we see only numbers: a thousand dead, a hundred thousand dead, ‘casualties may rise to a million.’ With individual stories, the statistics become people–but even that is a lie, for people continue to suffer in numbers that themselves are numbing and meaningless. Look, see the child’s swollen, swollen belly, and the flies that crawl at the corners of his eyes, his skeletal limbs: will it make it easier for you to know his name, his age, his dreams, his fears?…

We draw our lines around these moments of pain, remain upon our islands, and they cannot hurt us. They are covered with a smooth, safe, nacreous layer to let them slip, pearllike, from our souls without real pain.

Fiction allows us to slide into these other heads, these other places, and look out through other eyes. And then in the tale we stop before we die, or we die vicariously and unharmed, in the world beyond the tale we turn the page or close the book, and we resume our lives.

And life that is, like any others, unlike any other.”

–Neil Gaiman, American Gods

Photo: From no man is an island by murplej@ne

Not stealing jobs

outsourcing homework comics

From Executive Brief:

“…thousands of white-collar jobs are being shipped to developing economies as companies search for ways to lower operating costs. These white-collar jobs include customer service, R&D, documentation, and not to be missed, software development. Various emerging markets have since been competing against each other in the race to sell (the capabilities of) their armies of engineers, scientists, and accountants–to name a few–to companies based in the North America, Western Europe, and developed Asian economies.

“Because of the increasing number of jobs being off-shored, even those who first supported off-shoring wavered in their conviction about the advantages of shipping back-office operations abroad. Furthermore, there is much talk about workers’ rights, economic damage, and low-quality of work because of outsourcing. “

Is outsourcing purely evil? Is India the only available outsourcing destination? Is China the only other outsourcing destination? Continue reading here.

Image from inju.