Expert or Leader? / ¿Experto o Líder?

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Categories: IT, Leadership


Expert or Leader?

Those of us who graduate in technology careers, as in my case, tend to have a reputation for being independent and autonomous, and we are often e labeled as "NERDs".

Recall that the stereotype of "NERD" represents a very intelligent person, fascinated by knowledge, expert in technical issues and proud of it, but quite isolated from the environment that surrounds him or her, sometimes experiencing social disorders.

I have to admit that in the first years of my career in software development projects, I found many characters with the aforementioned characteristics: recognized experts highly valued for their knowledge, people who concentrated on their work, hoping that no one interrupts them, enjoying their interaction with computers more than with people.

And the more they specialized, it seemed that some traits of these experts were more accentuated, such as, for example:

  • Overvaluing technological aspects.
  • Assuming that others understand their technical vocabulary.
  • Little tolerance for others’ errors.
  • Difficulty in delegating.
  • Fear of knowing less than their collaborators.
  • Preferring to work alone.
  • Difficulty in managing people.
  • Not promoting teamwork.

Does this mean that experts cannot be leaders?

Are “being leader” and “being an expert” mutually exclusive?

Ginger Levin, in the Prologue of the book "IT Project Management - A Geek's Guide to Leadership", authored by Byron A. Love[1], expresses that successful Information Technology professionals pursue continuous technical training to keep up with technological changes. But the pace of technological change leaves them little time to develop their leadership skills.

As a result, many professionals are promoted to leadership roles based on their technical performance and not on their leadership skills - we call this the "Halo" effect. As a result, teams perform inefficiently.

Precisely, the study “State of the Global Workplace”[2], conducted by the consultancy Gallup, states that only 13% of employees worldwide are committed to what they do. It states: "Committed employees work with passion and feel a deep connection with their company, they drive innovation and make the organization move forward".

This means that just one in eight workers is "psychologically committed to their work and willing to make positive contributions to their organizations."

The rest of the employees are either "not committed" (63%) or "actively unengaged" (24%). The latter are unhappy, unproductive and prone to spread negativity to their colleagues.

Gerald M. Weinberg in his book “Becoming a Technical Leader [3], says that since he was young, he made the decision to enter computer career because he did not want to deal with a leadership role.

However, then Weinberg says that his strategy did not give him the expected result: "As I stood out with my technical skills, my colleagues considered me an expert and respected me for it. Soon they began to consult me and ask for advice. They put me in charge of a team. They asked me to teach courses. The more I resisted becoming a leader, the more I became one. Finally, I had to face the question of leadership, despite my desire to avoid it. "

As described by Ginger Levin and Gerald Weinberg, developing leadership skills is necessary, even in professions related to information technology.

Estanislao Bachrach, Doctor in Biological Sciences and author of the Best Sellers “Agilmente” and “En Cambio”, comments in his lectures, which can be seen – in Spanish - on YouTube[4], that in current times “It does not make a difference being technically good. The real difference is made by being creative, empathetic”.

Based on the previous reflections, we can summarize that, as experts in technology we must become aware of the need to also develop our leadership skills and achieve the motivation and commitment of our colleagues, generating collaborative work teams to obtain the required performance in these times of high competition and change.

We must worry about listening and understanding the concerns of our colleagues, developing empathy towards them, focusing on their needs ahead of ours, helping them develop as professionals and as new leaders, that is, developing a servant leadership model.

This way, we will increase the confidence of our employees, while we increase their motivation and, therefore, the efficiency and effectiveness of our teams.

How to start?

First of all, let the fear of "not knowing everything" go, allowing our colleagues to be the experts while we promote a safe environment to allow them to develop with confidence.

Focus on the goals and objectives,not on the technical details, and delegate  to them, trusting that they will do a good job.

Allow yourself and your colleagues to make mistakes and learn from them.

Understand that change requires time and discipline. We will not make it overnight. Start right now, and enjoy the process!

Are you ready to become a servant leader?


[1] Source: Love, Byron A., 2017, “IT Project Management -  A Geek’s Guide to Leadership”, CRC Press.

[2] Source: Study “State of the Global Workplace”, done by Gallup Consulting among 180 million employees in 142 countries.

[3] Source: Weinberg, Gerald M., 2014, “Becoming a Technical Leader”, LeanPub.

[4] Source: Estanislao Bachrach - Creatividad y cambio. Congreso Nacional Argentina CREA 2013. YouTube Canal CREA (in Spanish) - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XGT4FX3YA9c&t=362s.

 

En Español:

¿Experto o Líder?

Quienes nos graduamos en carreras de tecnología, como es mi caso, solemos tener fama de ser independientes y autónomos e, incluso, muchos somos catalogados de “NERDs”.

Recordemos que el estereotipo de “NERD” representa a una persona muy inteligente, fascinada por el conocimiento, experta en cuestiones técnicas y orgullosa por ello, pero bastante aislada del entorno que lo rodea, llegando a veces a experimentar trastornos sociales.

Tengo que reconocer que, en los primeros años de mi carrera, en proyectos de desarrollo de software, me encontré con muchos personajes con las características mencionadas: expertos reconocidos y muy valorados por sus conocimientos, personas que trabajaban muy concentradas en sus oficinas o puestos de trabajo, tratando que nadie los interrumpa, disfrutando más su interacción con las computadoras que con las personas.

Y cuanto más se especializaban, parecía que más se acentuaban algunas características de estos expertos, como, por ejemplo:

  • Sobre-valorar los aspectos tecnológicos.
  • Suponer que los demás entienden su vocabulario técnico.
  • Poca tolerancia al error propio y de los demás.
  • Dificultad para delegar.
  • Miedo a saber menos que sus colaboradores.
  • Preferir trabajar solos.
  • Dificultad para gestionar personas.
  • No propiciar el trabajo en equipos.

¿Significa esto que los expertos no pueden ser líderes?

¿"Ser líder" y "ser experto" son mutuamente excluyentes?

Ginger Levin, en el Prólogo del libro “IT Project Management -  A Geek’s Guide to Leadership”, de Byron A. Love[1], expresa que los profesionales exitosos de Tecnologías de la Información persiguen capacitación técnica continua para mantenerse actualizados con los cambios tecnológicos. Pero el ritmo de los cambios tecnológicos les deja poco tiempo para desarrollar el liderazgo.

Como resultado de esto, muchos profesionales son promovidos a roles de liderazgo basados en su desempeño técnico y no en sus habilidades de liderazgo. Lo que llamamos el efecto “Halo”. Y, en consecuencia, los equipos muestran un rendimiento ineficiente.

Justamente, de esto habla el estudio “State of the Global Workplace[2], realizado por la consultora Gallup, donde establece que sólo 13% de los empleados, a escala mundial, está comprometido con lo que hace. Lo que quiere decir que apenas uno de cada ocho trabajadores —180 millones de empleados en 142 países en donde se realizó— está “psicológicamente comprometidos con su trabajo y dispuesto a dar contribuciones positivas a sus organizaciones”.

"Los empleados comprometidos trabajan con pasión y sienten una profunda conexión con su empresa. Impulsan la innovación y hacen avanzar la organización", establece el mencionado estudio.

El resto de los empleados, o bien “no está comprometido” (63%) o está “activamente desmotivado” (24%). Estos últimos son infelices, improductivos y propensos a propagar la negatividad a sus colaboradores.

Gerald M. Weinberg en su libro “Becoming a Technical Leader [3], comenta que, desde joven, había tomado la decisión de estudiar una carrera de computación porque no quería lidiar con un rol de líder.

Sin embargo, cuenta luego Weinberg que su estrategia no le dio el resultado esperado: “Como me destacaba con los aspectos técnicos, mis colegas me consideraban un experto y me respetaban por ello. Pronto empezaban a consultarme y pedirme asesoramiento. Me pusieron a cargo de un equipo. Me pidieron que dictara cursos. Cuanto más me resistía a convertirme en líder, más me iba convirtiendo. Finalmente, tuve que enfrentar la cuestión del liderazgo, a pesar de lo que me molestaba.”

Tal como lo describen Ginger Levin y Gerald Weinberg, desarrollar el liderazgo es necesario, también en las profesiones relacionadas con la tecnología de la información.

Estanislao Bachrach, Doctor en Ciencias Biológicas y autor de los Best Sellers “Ágilmente” y “En Cambio”, comenta en sus conferencias, las que se pueden ver en Youtube[4], que en estos tiempos “No hace la diferencia ser bueno técnicamente. La diferencia la hace ser creativo, empático.

En base a las reflexiones anteriores, podemos resumir que, como expertos en tecnología debemos tomar conciencia de la necesidad de desarrollar también nuestras habilidades de liderazgo y lograr la motivación y el compromiso de nuestros colaboradores, generando equipos de trabajo colaborativos para obtener el desempeño requerido en estos tiempos de alta competencia y cambio.

Debemos preocuparnos por escuchar y conocer las preocupaciones de nuestros colaboradores, desarrollar empatía hacia ellos poniendo foco en sus necesidades por delante de las nuestras, ayudando a que se desarrollen como profesionales y como nuevos líderes, es decir, desarrollar un modelo de liderazgo de servicio.

Con esto, aumentando la confianza en nuestros colaboradores, aumentaremos su motivación y, por lo tanto, la eficiencia y eficacia de nuestros equipos de trabajo.

¿Cómo empezar?

En primer lugar, despojarnos del miedo de “no saber todo”, permitiendo que sean nuestros colaboradores los expertos y nosotros quienes les propiciamos el ámbito seguro para que se desenvuelvan con confianza.

Enfocarnos en las metas y los objetivos y no en los detalles técnicos, delegando esto último a nuestros colaboradores.

Permitirnos y permitir a nuestros colaboradores cometer errores, y aprender de ellos.

Entender que los cambios requieren tiempo y disciplina. No lo lograremos de la noche a la mañana. ¡Comenzar ya mismo y disfrutar del proceso!

¿Estás listo para convertirte en un líder servicial?

 


[1] Fuente: Love, Byron A., 2017, “IT Project Management -  A Geek’s Guide to Leadership”, CRC Press.

[2] Fuente: Estudio “State of the Global Workplace”, realizado por la consultora Gallup entre 180 millones de empleados en 142 países.

[3] Fuente: Weinberg, Gerald M., 2014, “Becoming a Technical Leader”, LeanPub.

[4] Fuente: Estanislao Bachrach - Creatividad y cambio. Congreso Nacional Argentina CREA 2013. YouTube Canal CREA. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XGT4FX3YA9c&t=362s.

 

Posted by Cecilia Boggi on: November 13, 2017 01:17 PM | Permalink

Comments (8)

Please login or join to subscribe to this item
Good Topic, In my opinion by the time experts gain their title as "Expert" they tend to dive deep into technical skills and most often they end up being technical rather people oriented leaders.

Every expert must demonstrate that right level of required skills to be called as leader. It is not impossible task but achievable.

Great post, Cecilia. As a confirmed dyed in the wool geek, I have to say I struggled to leave the technical world behind me. It is far more concrete than the world of leadership, which requires skills you don't learn when you absorb technical know-how.

The halo effect can certainly cause a plethora of technical leaders. Let us hope most will have the wisdom to recognize that being an expert in their technical field does not make them an expert in leadership, a field unto itself. And let us hope that those who push technical experts into the field of leadership seek those with promising leadership qualities rather than technical prowess and provide technical experts room to remain and grow in their chosen technical discipline.

Good topic ! Most people think that if you are technical you cannot be a good leader that 'NERD' tag if very difficult to overcome.

I tried to be both "expert" and "leader" but most of the time the technical part is the only visible one. The only teams you may lead are the ones focused on you technical skill...

I love this statement: "The more I resisted becoming a leader, the more I became one."

Good and Intelligent topic
"Yes we can" blend our technical knowledge with leadership strategies to lead, but to find the right dose of each skill is the secret.

Great post Cecilia!
Thank you for sharing

Andrea

Great article!

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