Join getAbstract to access the summary!

Leading Geeks

Join getAbstract to access the summary!

Leading Geeks

How to Manage and Lead People Who Deliver Technology


15 min read
10 take-aways
Text available

What's inside?

“Geeks,” are independent, complex, unsocial. Congratulations, you get to motivate them. Geekwork is ambiguous, erratic, costly. Even more congratulations you get to manage it.

Editorial Rating



  • Innovative
  • Applicable


Management consultant Paul Glen’s thorough discussion of geeks brings you brain-to-brain and eye-to-eye with high-tech, specialized knowledge workers. Don’t blink: you need these people, so you need to know how to fit your management style to them. Glen describes their primary personality traits and attitudes: commitment to logic, interest in problem solving, independence and, to put it politely, occasionally under-developed social skills. The author, who doesn’t seem to mind describing an entire subset of the labor force as if each worker in it had the same personality, explains what geeks need from a manager. You need to nurture motivation, provide internal facilitation, furnish external representation, and manage task, structural, and environmental ambiguity. suggests this organized, authoritative guide to those who manage knowledge workers. If it’s all geek to you, here’s the codebook.


The Difficulty of Leading Geeks

Geeks are the growing number of knowledge workers who specialize in creating, maintaining or supporting high technology. Commonly they labor in information technology (IT) departments, but they may appear in accounting, finance, marketing, sales or customer service. You need your geeks; they are critical to your company’s technological innovations. Geeks support technology that is indispensable to every function of today’s companies, so the geeks are indispensable, too.

However, to put it mildly, geeks are distinctive characters. They are harder to lead than other employees, and to work with them, you usually have to be tactically both a leader and a manager. Provide overall vision and strategy with one hand and guidance with the other. Geek leadership is different, geekwork is different and geeks are different. Managers can’t effectively control geeks’ behavior with power alone, because behavior plays a very small role in successful geekwork. Knowledge tasks are primarily based on thinking, generating ideas and applying creativity. When you lead geeks, you want to direct their creativity. Their behavior is relatively unimportant, certainly...

About the Author

For more than 15 years, management consultant Paul Glen has advised clients in the U.S., Europe and Asia on building effective technology organizations. He served as an adjunct faculty member in the MBA programs at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business and at Loyola Marymount University. Prior to founding C2 Consulting, he was western regional manager for SEI Information Technology, a national IT consultancy. He is a self-described "geek."

Comment on this summary