Another emerging leader in the new leadership paradigm of the 21st Century is the nerd otherwise known as the creative. Nerds often start professional life as technical specialists or people with a particular passion for an idea or a product. Unlike the Narcissist who makes chaos to promote his or her own interests, the nerd frequently disrupts the status quo, values being different and shows genuine passion for a new idea or product. In the old leadership schools, nerds were considered incapable of leadership. People like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg have proven this to be a myth. These creative leaders who are nerds may not be appreciated by corporate recruitment agencies who see them as a risky product, unable to “play the game”, because they are uncomfortable in a shirt or tie, or heels, or any corporate uniform.
Nerds are plainly and unapologetically themselves. They are willing to take risks, to push through barriers to make change, often like to work alone or in partnerships with people who recognise their talent. They are resilient. They can be difficult to work with. They are used to being put down even ridiculed for their ideas. They got over being bullied years ago in the play ground. They play in their own sand pit, to their own tune and are brilliant at bringing like minded people along with them. They can be impetuous and cruel when faced with opposition to their ideas. As leaders, it can feel like “my way or the highway” for a wayward employee. The nerd is:
- Works well with like minded people
- Seriously creative
- Connects with ideas
- Can lack empathy
- Resilient in the face of ridicule or opposition
- Innovates alone or in small groups
- Serious about change
- Totally sincere about what matters
It can be a roller coaster ride working with a Nerd if you are not one yourself or do not understand how he/she thinks and works. If the organisational culture accepts and supports the nerd as a creative leader, an employee can find themselves in a fast paced learning environment, fully absorbed in a passionate quest, productive, highly motivated and rewarded for effort. If the organisation does not support the creativity or the nerd’s personal passion, his or her team suffers. The leader may become impetuous and cruel, oppositional, stubborn and team members will be culturally isolated in the organisation. If you are lucky enough to be in a corporate culture who embraces and support the strengths of this unique individual there will be a rare opportunity to nurture innovation and develop products and services that stand out from the crowd.