I have just read the book by Paul Glen titled "Leading geeks". Following the spirit of expert book review sites, such as the one from Mr. Bejtlich, here you are some comments about "Leading geeks".
The subtitle of the book is "How to manage and lead people who deliver technology". It has been published by Wiley.
First things first, this review by no means replaces the reading of the book. On the contrary, I hope that by reading these lines, this book would have more readers. You can buy it, for example, here.
I summarise my view on this book saying that ... It is a book worth reading, Although the first half contains more aha! thoughts than the second part.
Mr. Glen starts with an interesting comparison between power and leadership. He defines leadership as "a special type of power relationship in which both leaders and followers are mutually influential for their mutual benefit".
I understand that his definition of geek is someone who works with technology. He continues with a splendid series of sentences: "...for a geek, to reason is to know, to know is to be certain, to be certain is to be right, and to be right is to be safe" (page 28). I like when Mr. Glen mentions that geeks use the "problem-solution" model (page 29) as a tool to tackle almost any situation. This constitutes already a first difficult point for geek managers (page 124): They need to perform some activities, such as facilitation and information sharing, that do not fit in the problem-solution model.
He also refers to the fact that geeks are not obliged to sharpen their social skills. Most of the value they deliver comes from actions that are not related to behaviour (page 13) . This is an important point that we, geeks, have to bear in mind (and improve).
"Geeks think self-expression is communication". You can read this on page 34. I invite you to reflect on this sentence and how current education systems promote this fact. Also an interesting point is the fact that most unprofessional behaviour happens when people are under pressure (adapted from page 134).
The author states that geeks judge colleagues in a swift and merciless manner. I doubt whether I entirely agree with this, but I certainly have this in mind when I hear some judgements around me coming from geeks.
I certainly agree with the statement that we, geeks, pay more attention to the way a system works than to what a system does (page 39).
Page 62 in the book shows also a critical difference between geek and managerial work. The former requires no interruptions and the latter is mostly based on interruptions. This is a second difficult point then for geek managers. They need to change their daily way of operation.
On page 76, the author proposes 12 competencies for geek or geek managers. It is interesting to note how the needs to manage ambiguity and time horizons are part of that list of competencies.
Especially interesting is his definition of politics (page 86): "The process by which a group of people makes a decision". I link this, first, with the recommendation that the author makes to provide clarity to the environment (page 174), so that geeks are able to understand what they work for. And second, I link it with how a decentralised manner to make decisions require information sharing (adapted from page 173).
All in all, I enjoyed reading the book. I could take several thoughts and models for daily professional geek work.
If there is an IT or IT security related book you would like a review about, please leave the name in a comment and I will endeavour to read it.
Thanks to Paul Glen for his enlightening book.