Blog of Rob Galanakis (@robgalanakis)

What if Carl Sagan were a hack?

I was watching the first episode of Cosmos, and Neil deGrasse Tyson talked some about how stellar of a scientists Carl Sagan was and what an impact Carl had on Neil personally. Carl’s abilities were important for his advocacy, because a) it lent him credibility, and b) it allowed him to engage. He practiced while he advocated. I can’t imagine Carl Sagan achieving the impact and legacy he did by abandoning the lab for the lecture circuit.

What a powerful lesson for those of us that manage people doing work we’ve never done. How can we deeply connect with them?

What a reminder for those of us that have moved into managing and left behind creating. Should our dues, once paid, last forever?

What a feeling for those of us who have moved into management out of expectation. Is it right to tell people what to do, while we have lost enough passion to do it ourselves?

2 thoughts on “What if Carl Sagan were a hack?

  1. Robert says:

    I think it’s a mistake to think that you need to have a passion for doing what the people below you do (of course better for you, if you have ;). Because your roles are different. Instead you should have a passion that allows the people under your leadership to pursue their own passion. And that’s why I also think that promoting artists to leadership, because they are good at art, isn’t very clever. i.e. the best sniper may not necessarily make the best general.

    People in your team are specialists. They care about specialized things like rigging, tools programming, engines, etc. What separates the leader is the focus of their work. A specialist has authority within their realm – i.e. the unreal guy makes the call how to export certain assets, not the leader. The leader has authority when it comes to their realm, which is the big picture – if the unreal guy and the rigging TD get in a fight over the export, the leader has to make the call.

    I’m not sure if there’s a way to “deeply connect” as a leader, but I think it helps to understand what is your role, what isn’t your role, and when you have to step back and let other people of your team make decisions. Just like in yachting – once you’re out of sea there’s no hierarchy. There’s a team and there are roles, and you do the role you have to your best ability, because every man is as important as the next one when it comes to reaching the goal.

    I’ve sometimes even wondered if it’s good if the lead knows too much. (too little is dangerous too!). Are micromanaging leads good? Leads that hog all the awesome work because of their “skill”? Leads that provide solutions to their employees rather than challenges that allow them to grow? Leads with half baked outdated knowledge making calls that somebody else is more qualified to make?

  2. Everything you describe in your last paragraph has nothing to do with leads knowing their domain. It has everything to do with bad management.
    Micromanagement is no good, but neither is management that doesn’t know what’s going on.
    Hogging work is no good, but neither is not being able to contribute.
    Providing solutions isn’t good, but neither is being unable to mentor.
    Outdated knowledge is no good, but neither is being unable to weigh in on anything.

    Bad leadership is bad leadership, independent of skill level. It’s far easier to talk about the “best artist doesn’t make the best art manager” type of thing, but it’s not useful or interesting. It’s obvious.
    But you know who *definitely* will be a shitty art manager? The art manager who doesn’t care about art, who takes the job because she’s tired of making art, or is “above” doing development work, or wants more money, or wants to advance his career.

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