19 October 2005

Tool or Leader: Redux

A recent post o' Mine discussed the dichotomy "techies" feel about dealing with "squishyware," otherwise known as people. In the post, The Jenius stated that one faces the choice of either being a tool or facing the people problems and becoming a leader.

A person whose opinion The Jenius respects pointed out that My classifications were of the "either/or" variety. For the purposes of that specific post, that is true, but under no circumstance is that the only prevailing aspect. Nor is there any intent to subsume the role of tool to that of leader, for The Jenius would much rather work alongside a competent "tool" than with a mediocre leader.

To clarify, and solely in general terms: A "tool" is someone who chooses to focus on technical issues, operational processes or abstract problem-solving. S/He is a tool because s/he actually does the work intended.

A leader is someone who encompasses the human beings involved in the technical issue, operational processes or who act within and upon what others see as "abstract problems." S/He is a leader because of the need to guide towards a goal, often in ways that can be only described as indirect.

What's best for a situation depends on the circumstances. If you need brain surgery, you'd rather have a surgeon (tool) than any number of "visionaries." If you need to redirect a nation, you need at least one leader and at least a handful of high-quality "tools", which explains why We in Puerto Rico are in such dire straits right now.

Being a tool doesn't mean you are inferior to a leader, only that you focus on a different range of interests. Being a leader doesn't mean you are superior to "tools" because, let's face it, if you don't deal well with them, what are you the leader of?

In fact, as The Jenius stated in yesterday's post, the choice isn't either/or, but and. To be a tool and a leader. To know you can get the job done single-handedly and you can generate the energy needed to get a group focused on completing a goal. This would be "leading from expertise/competence," another reason that defines why Our government sucks like a Dyson.

Tool or leader is not a once-in-a-lifetime choice, but one that can occur daily, or even several times a day for those of Us who lead a productive life. For not only must you evaluate whether to be a tool or a leader, but also what kind of tool, what kind of leader, how you will undertake the task at hand, when and how to communicate, is it time to move on and so much more.

The important thing is that you choose. Choose well.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

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