Years ago I worked with “Craig,” who, as vice president of engineering, managed a large organization that was responsible for research and development of a complex hardware/software product; a product that required a varied mix of skills, including hardware, software, quality, systems, etc.
Craig was the second best manager I ever worked with.
His people trusted him, knew he was completely fair and wouldn’t tolerate politics.
He understood culture, building teams and was expert at hiring people who would thrive in the environment he provided.
His boss, peers, subordinates and everyone with whom he interfaced including vendors considered him extremely competent—which he was.
And therein lay the problem.
For those who didn’t know him well the competence came over as arrogance, because Craig was missing one very important capability.
Craig was missing empathy.
He handled this by adopting a professorial style where emotion wasn’t required, which worked well in long-term situations, but not short-term ones.
Short-term acquaintances found him arrogant—except for those who really were arrogant. They noticed nothing different from themselves, but Craig saw them as arrogant.
We talked about it once and Craig explained that he had always been cerebral, never emotional, even in his personal life.
I asked him if he was Vulcan.
As to the absolute best executive, he had everything Craig had plus empathy. (More about him next Tuesday.)
Flickr image credit: Kevin