I’m a Dilbert fan. As an engineer who now works in marketing, and compounds that sacrilege by working in management, I see the humour from many angles perhaps more than most. Every so often, Dilbert tackles leadership, and more often than not the result is quite funny.
We’ve all seen many headlines and studies that draw correlation or causation between exhibiting psychopathy and becoming a CEO or other leader. Well, Scott Adams has seen the same articles. While by no means the only strip to tackle leadership, here’s one that joins the well-publicized link between psychopathy and leadership with the reality that bookstore shelves are well-stocked with countless leadership tomes and how-to guides.
Dilbert (Adams) concludes that since the content of leadership books varies greatly, they are all equally useful (in that they are useless), so luck+sociopathy are the necessary conditions for one to excel as a leader.
Today’s strip carries on the theme that there can be no definitive guide for leadership, because all leaders are different and all situations are different. The Pointy-Haired Boss is not pleased with this conclusion.
To a large extent, I agree with Adams – every situation is different and every leader is different, so unwaveringly adopting a singular approach is a fool’s errand. Moreover, it’s incredibly frustrating to be led by someone who completely reliant on one tactic, and is consequently not adaptable. However, I don’t share in the conclusion that all resources are therefore worthless (although I am a believer that luck does play a much greater role in our lives than we would care to admit). Personally, I grab the books that I think are good (which is very subjective – Wooden on Leadership is a personal favourite), and read bios of leaders I admire (again, subjective), in the hope that I can build a diverse toolkit that will help me tackle different situations. I combine these tactics with the identification and attempted eradication of weaknesses in my toolkit: I hate negotiating, so I took a two-day negotiation course at UW better equipping to handle such scenarios; I dislike tense discourse, so I’m reading and applying the lessons of Crucial Conversations; I’m a terrible storyteller, so I’ve tracked down some resources that will help me improve.
Within my circle of control, I have the ability to learn lessons and apply/practice/develop techniques and skills that might help me become a better leader – the fact that the skills that historically “great” leaders have used, or “experts” espouse, vary does not invalidate them in my eyes, it is instead an argument for developing a broad and deep toolkit.
[Incidentally, although I’m sure I’ll make future reference to it, this classic is possibly my all time favourite Dilbert.]