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When Low IQ manages High IQ

December 16, 2008

So you’re stuck with an imbecile boss, a new CEO brought in by the board and this guy doesn’t know a USB port from a earphone jack.

One thing you can’t do is complain upwards because they’re the ones that put him there and they’d be a monkey’s uncle if you proved them wrong. You can’t complain to the VPs either because they’re too busy playing tai ji with one another. And your immediate boss, the department manager? Well nobody listens to a small fish.

I can share a couple of real life incidents in the US high tech industry where the engineers decided to take control of their destiny and light up the fire under their boss’s pants until they sit up and go, “WTF am I doing here?”

Death by Jargon
CEOs decide on perceived risks and anything unfamiliar just adds to that perception. Smart techies know it and the title is self explanatory. They threw jargon at him every chance they got – in meetings, in the elevator, in the washroom, at the cafeteria. They used terms like IEEE1394 instead of firewire, 802.16 instead of wimax. To rub his nose in, they’d add sub-versions and year of release like 802.16e-2005 to give it a nice techie feel. Most clueless leaders aren’t terribly good with details so after you’ve delivered the first punch and they’re seeing stars, you can deliver knock-outs with an innocent question like, “Do you think we should’ve gone ahead with the Dublin Core standard?” A few painful months later, the last straw came when the CEO was floored during a seminar when he was asked by his own engineer about his view on emerging standards. And there were reporters there. That was probably the decisive moment when knew he was in the wrong place. He left the company soon after.

Death by FUD (Fear, uncertainty, doubt)
What if the CEO wakes up one day to his biggest nightmare – the prospect that his company’s products had just been outdated. Fed up with his clueless CEO, one techie routinely scouted the net for any competing technologies. He would send fyi clippings to the CEO as any good employee should, with his own remarks that went something like, “Oh crap, our entire product line is about to get obsoleted by this product that’s launching in Taiwan tomorrow!” Of course such things are normal. There’s probably 200 types of mp3 players in the world and that hasn’t stopped anyone from creating the 201st variant but the thought of spending money to produce obsoleted products is enough to scare the bejeezus out of any CEO, especially if they’ve never managed technology. Several unnerving months later, the CEO surrendered and left.

A high IQ leader will see through the scam soon enough but we’re talking low IQ here and they don’t always know what hit ’em.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 16, 2008 9:52 am

    There are still some who will appear oblivious to all those ‘threats’. They will never leave their position no matter how you try to make him leave. 😀

    Yes that happens. And when performance tanks, these leaders blame everyone but themselves.

  2. LC Teh permalink
    December 16, 2008 11:40 am

    If he doesn’t behave like the Jaws, leave him be. At least you can do your job in peace. Just let him know you’re aware but leave him there. Lots better than having a smart-ass who knows what pesky little things you don’t and pretend he knows more than you by digging at them.

    George W Bush will probably be the most famous of intellectually challenged CEOs and the shoes heaved at him yesterday just affirms that sometimes, its hard to ignore the presence of such leaders. I’m continually amazed at how smart people can appoint stupid leaders. George Carlin once said, “Imagine how stupid the average person is, and half the people are stupider than that.” Unfortunately its that half that often puts these CEOs in place. The smarter half would rather roll up their eyes and say “Why should I bother.”

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