“If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.“ - Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Mode two thinking does not mean you can't be critical. In fact, critique is critical for the best end result. It means you must understand how to skillfully switch between type 1 goal oriented and type 2 creative mode. That's the trick - you need BOTH. And utilizing mode 1 so that it does not kill mode 2 is really hard. You have to be compassionate, emphatic and work from the common understanding that everyone is striving towards the same goal.
It's "Build this my grandest design to me now!" vs. "Ok, hotshot, show me what you can build and we can tweak that into the ultimate ship".
IMO the key thing is that the work is done in open mode, and the results are observed critically.
This means that the constraints, implicit or explicit, should be as unlimiting as possible, because all constraints will limit the space of solutions that people can think of. This includes such limits as performance metrics and various financial incentives. Which means if you want creative output, you should generally fund peoples and projects, and not milestones. And then when they deliver something, gauge that critically, and if the thing they make sells well, give them a bonus so they will feel fairly treated. But don't incentivize the innovation process itself and don't hold the bonus up as a promised gift they will wait for.
This is of course completely different way than you would incentivize sales people or people doing linear repetitive tasks where performance based incentives are shown to work pretty well.
Dan Pink's TED lecture is pretty good.
There is a reason for this. Most people have really low standards. Most people are lazy. Inspiring them to build the ship fixes the second problem. Telling them that the ship's sails are junk and they should design better ones fixes the first.
Good leadership requires that you come to terms with shortcomings, both your own and those of other people.
It does strike me as odd though that there is almost no recognition or reference to the vast world of case study and literature about leadership, and technical leadership to boot.
For example, Siebel talks about "Level 2" thinking as well as self awareness as important attributes to being a good leader. These attributes can be found discussed in great detail with well worn concepts like "Servant Leadership" and "Referent Power".
Further, actively seeking high consequence/stress situations like Siebel discusses is a well understood way of learning leadership.
So my question is, if it is important for tech CEOs or other tech people to understand and embody these leadership principles, why not seek out the huge amounts of training and learning on this - and to that end seeking out people who have gone through a lot of it, rather than trying to start from first principles?
Let me be clear too, I'm not suggesting you can learn this stuff from a book. Far from it. What I am saying is that there are a lot of great people out there with tested leadership experience, that are overlooked by the tech world because it does not specifically select for it.
For example: how do you tell someone that they're underperforming while still motivating them? There's a lot of partial advice out there like "frame it as a growth opportunity." But how? What words do you use? Half of the new managers will flinch before they give the feedback, and the other half will flub the delivery. It's a hard-earned, fundamental leadership skill.
MBA programs actually encode a lot of time-tested wisdom on leadership and management for the students who go looking for it. Huge emphasis on the caveat because not all MBA students are looking for that. They even do simulations to give you practice in a low-stakes setting. As a risky generalization based on my own observations, I think Silicon Valley has thrown the baby out with the bathwater with its historical hostility towards MBA's.
Speaking of which, I think executive coaching is worth its weight in gold for younger startup leadership.
When you ask someone, "Describe the person you'd like to work for," I seriously doubt talented people say, "An MBA."
So surely you'd see why so many mediocre people wind up working for them.
I'm suggesting that, as a reliable way to raise the bar on leadership, engineers who want to manage might benefit a lot from going through MBA training.
That's a significant chunk of the MBA curriculum. Of course you don't have to get it from there, but if you look at who teaches in business schools, quite a few of the professors specifically research those subjects.
the reason is that their management style tend to be demotivating and offputting
What about it is demotivating and offputting? The typical complaint I hear isn't about their leadership skills, it's about a lack of technical expertise or lack of appreciation for subject matter expertise. As an example, I've seen some of Harvard Business School's materials, and their curriculum definitely teaches to seek technical expertise.
I am mostly judging it from results of MBA managers. It seems that highly motivated happy teams are rather exception then rule. This kind of psychological knowledge seems to lead to manipulative behavior that most eventually figure out in the span of months and consequently leads to lack of trust, demotivation.
> The typical complaint I hear isn't about their leadership skills, it's about a lack of technical expertise or lack of appreciation for subject matter expertise. As an example, I've seen some of Harvard Business School's materials, and their curriculum definitely teaches to seek technical expertise.
As general as both complains are, they are closely related to leadership skill, they are not independent of it. The "no appreciation for subject matter expertise" is euphemism for "experts under their leadership are unable to use their skill and knowledge and are treated without respect and without regard". It means that project is running into the same problems again and the leader does not care, because problems are not affecting him right now and experts are effectively talking to a wall that smiles back.
Lack of technical expertise means that experts are forced to implement decisions they know will lead to problems and then get resentfulness when those problems happen and they are blamed for it. It means you work around the manager and not with manager. It means that you have to keep secrets and manage manager, because manager cant be trusted.
I don't know what exactly those schools teach, so I can not say what exactly is wrong with it. But I had managers that I respect to this day, not all of them were technical and they seemed to be able to work around lack of technical knowledge better then mba I have seen. Mba are good at creating illusion of well run project for upper management. That absolutely has value, especially in corporation, but is not really leadership skill and is not same as actually run the project well.
This becomes even more complicated in a tech setting, where the 0s and 1s of computers clash fundamentally with the nuanced requisites of a good leader. They're not mutually exclusive, of course, but what we're talking about now is a true left brain/right brain individual with a healthy dose of X factor that makes him/her someone that developers, sales folk, and office managers alike trust and get behind.
I wish I were wrong. I wish you could teach these things, but I really don't think you can. Otherwise we'd be living in a much different world.
They are definitely teachable. I had to learn them. I won't say I'm great at it, but there was a drastic difference between my effectiveness as a leader early on vs. later on.
Just like technical acumen, you have to start with building low level muscles, and then you build on top of that to develop increasingly complex, integrated skills.
Here's an example breakdown of how to build communication skills from a set of low level skills. I've seen adults (including engineers) improve dramatically with direction and practice:
1. Learning to tell when you are getting angry and building the habit of stepping away instead of escalating
2. Learning to tell when you are reacting in the moment vs. analyzing, and practicing the habit of moving to analysis during tense conversations
3. Learning to stop automatically attributing bad motives to things other people say that you dislike
4. Learning the formula for conflict handling: (1) acknowledging their point, (2) repeating it back with a charitable interpretation, then (3) responding with your point
5. Learning to make exploratory statements and ask questions to establish common understanding
6. Learning to identify and not make overconfident/dismissive/glib statements
Check out Jocko Willinks podcast sometime if you're into leadership. He talks about all of these things using examples from his life when he led Navy Seal teams.
The PDF you linked looks incredibly dry; On the other hand the link in this post is very easy to digest and understand.
I have never been in the military, nor do I know much about it. And, tech companies are very different from militaries. But, I sometimes come across military leadership readings that help give me ideas, and “Intent” is something that has stuck with me.
Visionary envisaging can easily become meaningless corporate speak, and L2, with its tendency to abstract ways of talking about things.... it opens more door for this... for example.
> go against the values of some people
This reads like you have experience with bad leaders.
When I try to motivate colleagues or team members, it's not at all manipulation. It's helping them through issues that they're dealing with and getting them happy about what they're doing. I'd rather do that than let them be unhappy and unmotivated. When you manipulate, people will see through it, when you motivate, people will appreciate it and work harder because they want to. I'm not sure why that would be a bad thing.