Book review: Becoming a Technical Leader

Becoming a Technical Leader, by Gerald Weinberg is typical of Gerald’s books – anything but conventional. He presents his ideas with humor and humility, often from his own mistakes, and not from the elevated pedestal of the “expert” speaking down to us. Gerald digs deep into the truths of how people work. There are no easy shortcuts, fast answers, or quick fixes, but rather a process. These are truths that can only come from diligently observing how things work over a long period of time.

As I’m typing up my notes from this book, I thought I would try a different approach and share “installments” of a chapter or two. If you have any thoughts, please feel free to share in this thread.

These notes include mostly quotes that stood out to me. There is obviously much more in the book to consider.

Table of Contents

  • Preface
  • Forward
  • Part One: Definition
    • 1 - What Is Leadership, Anyway?
    • 2 - Models of Leadership Style
    • 3 - A Problem-Solving Style
    • 4 - How Leaders Develop
    • 5 - But I Can’t Because …
  • Part Two: Innovation
    • 6 - The Three Great Obstacles to Innovation
    • 7 - A Tool for Developing Self-Awareness
    • 8 - Developing Idea Power
    • 9 - The Vision
  • Part Three: Motivation
    • 10 - The First Great Obstacle to Motivating Others
    • 11 - The Second Great Obstacle to Motivating Others
    • 12 - The Problem of Helping Others
    • 13 - Learning to be a Motivator
    • 14 - Where Power Comes From
    • 15 - Power, Imperfection, and Congruence
  • Part Four: Organization
    • 16 - Gaining Organizational Power
    • 17 - Effective Organization of Problem-Solving Teams
    • 18 - Obstacles to Effective Organizing
    • 19 - Learning to Be an Organizer
  • Part Five: Transformation
    • 20 - How You Will Be Graded as a Leader
    • 21 - Passing Your Own Leadership Tests
    • 22 - A Personal Plan for Change
    • 23 - Finding Time to Change
    • 24 - Finding Support for Change
  • Epilogue

1 - What is Leadership, Anyway?

  • Preface
    • These leaders were not the pure technicians produced by the engineering and science schools, nor were they the conventional leaders trained in the schools of management. They were a different breed, a hybrid. What they shared was a concern for the quality of ideas. Like the butcher, they wanted everything in their shop to be the best. We called them technical leaders.
  • Forward
    • Fortunately for us, Jerry Weinberg has made unraveling the complexities of technology and management his life’s work, in particular, the curious mixture of the two that occurs in modern organizations. Everything he says touches home. Over and over, I found myself laughing and being embarrassed at the same time.
  • Part One: Definition
    • 1 - What Is Leadership, Anyway?
      • If you are a good leader, Who talks little, They will say, When your work is done, And your aim fulfilled, “We did it ourselves.” – Lao-Tse
      • If you have always felt there was something slightly wrong about one person telling another person what to do, perhaps your experiences were like mine.
      • I have a curious way of dealing with difficult issues. Whenever I want to learn about something, I arrange to teach a course on the subject. After I’ve taught the course enough to learn something, I write a book.
      • Organic models can be contrasted with linear models on several dimensions: the way events are explained, the way a person is defined, the way a relationship is defined, and the attitude toward change.
      • Underlying organic models is the fundamental idea of systems thinking: “It is impossible to change just one thing at a time.” Linear models tend to be most effective in relatively stable situations, but when things start changing, they get us into trouble.
      • Instead of leading people, as in the threat/reward model, organic leadership leads the process. Leading people requires that they relinquish control over their lives. Leading the process is responsive to people, giving them choices and leaving them in control. They are empowered in much the same way a gardener empowers seeds – not by forcing them to grow, but by tapping the power that lies dormant within them.