The 10 most dangerous species of IT team leader

After yet more research into the various species that inhabit this working world of ours, I return with a new set of taxonomic classifications. This time, we concern ourselves with the team leader, in all his or her many guises.

As ever, there are many competent and sociable team leaders in IT departments; but they don’t make for great storytelling. Picking the worst and most dangerous types can help us recognise the signs and maybe even glean a little entertainment from them.

1: Dux Timeris

Fearful Leader

This team leader was persuaded to take the leadership job for two reasons: First, the powers that be decided that there should be a team leader so they could devolve some of their duties to someone who can’t answer back. They picked the least confident team member and tailored the promotion process to ensure that the correct candidate was appointed.

Second, this person was the last to get through the door when the call for volunteers went out. He may have been trampled underfoot in the rush and was slightly concussed when the job offer was made.

Now that this new leader is hooked, he’s too timid to ask to be re-graded and spends a lot of his free time worrying about the job. This is completely unfair, as this type is usually a good person trying to do a good job.

Favourite saying: "Can somebody help me please? Anybody?"

2: Dux Fulvus Nasus

I will leave you to translate the Latin for yourself

This leader does not think for himself but hangs on every word passed down to him from on high. If the boss told him that the sun was inhabited by pixies he would send Christmas cards to them.

He cannot believe what he is hearing when somebody on the team disagrees with a management decision; more worryingly, every critical word uttered within his earshot is reported back directly. Once aware of this, a team can make good use of it for propaganda purposes.

Consider the day of the Christmas party, for instance, when our help desk team was told that it was not permitted to attend. We weren’t expecting any calls, as virtually the whole company was at the bash. We decided, within the hearing of the Dux FN, that we would wait for the party to start and then go home. An hour later, our invite to the party had arrived, with an instruction to switch the phones over to voicemail.

Favourite saying: "I was talking to the boss this morning. Wonderful man!"

3: Dux Magnifica

The Paragon of all the Virtues

This person is under the misapprehension that he has arrived, that he or she is "Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"

Yes, this jerk is full of himself. You would think he had just been appointed World President instead of a glorified tea boy. He took to wearing a pin-striped suit on appointment to the position.

He refers to the senior directors of the company as his colleagues or "fellow members of the management team." He is not a tattle-tale. The views of those under him are far too inconsequential to be listened to, much less acted upon.

Favourite saying: "Follow me lads; I know what I am doing!"

4: Dux Trogloditica

Cave Man

This leader is a technical expert who lives, eats, and breathes computers. He leaves the office at the end of the day and goes home to a techno cave where he spends his off-duty hours making his stock of computers, one that NASA would be proud to own, do things that they were never deigned to do.

When he is not thus engaged, he attends conventions dressed as his favourite character from a variety of science fiction films. D Trog is the first person to talk to about a technical problem and the last person to ask about any leadership or personal hygiene issue.

Favourite saying: "I think you’ll find that James T. Kirk never said, ‘Beam me up Scotty.’ The nearest he got was, ‘Scotty beam me up!’"

5: Dux Dictatorialis

The Dictator

You can say what you like about Dux Dictatorialis, but under him all the calls were logged on time. He (and it usually is a he) is an obnoxious person who can’t understand that people have a life outside of work and wants the world to know that HE is in charge. People who disagree with him usually disappear and are never seen again, although a trip to the media library or any other dark and dusty storage facility may give a clue as to their fate.

The worst thing about any dictatorship is that the weaker members of the team find themselves siding with the bully and become bullies themselves. Fortunately, this species is becoming rare in the wild, as there are many predators and few allies.

Favourite saying: "Come on, get with the program!"

6: Dux Nihilistica

Leader of Nothing and Nobody

D Nihilistica is an unhappy and lonely leader. He was made team leader, but the snag is that his team consists of just one person: himself. He has been doing the same job for a number of years and generally speaking, he does a pretty good job. A year ago, he was surfing a recruitment Web site and was spotted by his boss. They don’t want to lose him, as they would have great trouble in replacing him, especially at the paltry salary they currently offer.

Luckily, they persuaded him to stay by awarding him an upgrade in his status, a move that cost nothing.

Favourite saying: He doesn’t have one; there’s nobody to talk to.

7: Dux Amicus Bonissimus

The Best Mate

The Best Mate wants to please everybody all the time. Nobody ever explained the impossibility of this, so he continues trying, even though experience should tell him that he’s on a hiding to nothing. These leaders are known to go home at night wondering why everybody hates them. This is not true. We don’t hate them, we worry about them. In the futile commotion of trying to be all things to all people, they are in dire peril of going quietly mad.

Promotion is a double-edged sword that cuts both ways. When you are pleasing the bosses, you will upset the team. Stick up for the team and the bosses will blame you for not communicating their message properly.

Favourite saying: "Why does everybody hate me?"

8: Dux Reluctantis

The Reluctant Leader

The team had functioned well for a number of years, but there was a review and the question was asked, "Who is the team leader?" The answer was not what the big boss wanted to hear.

"You must have a team leader on every team." End of discussion.

People were invited to apply for the post, but nobody was keen. It was clear that the team dynamic was at risk and nobody wanted to rock the boat. Eventually, a person was picked, interviewed, and appointed. Even when the inevitable interview question was asked: "Why do you want this job?" the answer, "I don’t really want it," was not enough to put them off.

Sometimes, a D. Reluctantis is appointed because HR feels he needs a challenge to reveal his full potential.

Favourite saying: "If that’s okay with you…"

9: Dux Minoris

The Lesser Leader

This team leader is perfectly illustrated by Simon Travaglia’s Pimply Faced Youth (PFY) in his celebrated BOFH series of comic IT spoofs.

He is keen but has been led astray by a scheming and manipulative section manager. He is drawn into the various scams and schemes to do down the bean counters and is not above using the Argon-based fire systems to discretely dispose of those who stand in the way.

In reality, this character is easily diverted from his true path and finds himself in a tight corner when the schemes inevitably go wrong. He is great fun to work for, but you should always make sure that you take the key to the server room door with you if you enter alone.

Favourite saying: "Illegitimi non carborundum…" and he has the T-shirt to prove it.

10. Dux Severus

The Serious Team Leader

When some members of the team get promoted it goes to their heads.

Gone is the sociable, easy-going friend you worked with and out comes the martinet. The person who used to take 30-minute bathroom breaks suddenly starts to time your breaks and make scathing comments when you take more than four minutes. Having an upset stomach is no excuse because he knows that the loo break is often used as an unofficial break and an opportunity to catch up on office gossip with help desk colleagues.

Favourite saying: "We run a tight ship here."

This typifies the arrogance of the breed. Adopting the "Royal We" is always a sign that things are going to the bad.

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