Digerati Glitterati: High‐tech Heroes

Personnel Review

ISSN: 0048-3486

Article publication date: 1 August 2004



Langdon, C. and Manners, D. (2004), "Digerati Glitterati: High‐tech Heroes", Personnel Review, Vol. 33 No. 4, pp. 485-486. https://doi.org/10.1108/00483480410539533



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

The three books reviewed in this section are concerned with the human element including leadership and topics related to success in the new knowledge‐based economy. Therefore each book individually will be of use and interest to practitioners, students and researchers.

Digerati Glitterati takes in‐depth interviews with a select group of 12 of the most admired leaders from new economy companies. Several have founded successful companies while others have transformed existing organizations into world leaders or blazed entrepreneurial trails for others to follow. The Digerati Glitterati who have helped shape the “new” economy have fascinating stories to tell with regard to building companies, leadership and have priceless advice to offer.

Langdon and Manners provide an extremely useful thematic index to this book, for example, covering themes such as role models, financing a business, set‐backs and so on. This makes it easy to see what the Digerati Glitterati say on a number of specific themes, and also allows the reader to draw out similarities and differences between the interviewees.

Tulgan's book Winning the Talent Wars, as its sub‐title indicates, explains “how to manage and compete in the high‐tech, high‐speed, knowledge‐based, superfluid economy”. That is to say, he wrote the book for decision makers in all organizations (regardless of size or nature) to help them determine how to best staff work not jobs. Tulgan argues that the talent wars are growing out of a fundamental paradigm shift in the employer‐employee relationship: from the old slow moving, rigid, pay your dues and climb the ladder model, to the fast moving, increasingly efficient free market for talent. As Tulgan states “ Employing people in the free market for talent requires a whole new set of management practices” (p. 10).

Utilising information from today's leading high‐tech CEOs, corporate communicators, human resource professionals, managers, and employees, Carol Kinsey Goman's The Human Side of High‐tech, offers a valuable look at the people practices that are effective, in the volatile technology industry. Lessons from the book will help organizations develop the policies necessary to employ the best talent available, lower the employee turnover rate, and find new ways to sustain cutting‐edge competitiveness in the worldwide technology industry.

Langdon and Manners book examines the stories of 12 CEOs from various high‐tech industries. The intellectual power harnessed in the high‐tech world is awesome, and the authors coin the phrase “Digerati” for the leaders in this digitised world, and “Glitterati” refers to glittering examples, from whom we may all learn. This interesting and easily read book has 12 chapters, each one focusing on an individual CEO/founder who has been an influential player in the information technology revolution of recent years.

Each of the leaders gives an informal, in‐depth interview, which highlights what actually makes a Digerati Glitterati, and follows their stories from the earliest days through to the establishment of successful companies. Many date their interest in technology back to an early childhood experience. For example, Sir Clive Sinclair (Sinclair Research) always wanted to be an inventor, he heard an inventor on a radio programme called Toytown when he was around six years old. When Gordon Moore (Intel) was ten, the boy next door got a chemistry set and the two boys were subsequently fascinated by causing explosions, and this set Moore on the road to becoming one of the greatest chemists of his generation. When Andrew Rickman (Bookham) was a teenager he bought an amplifier kit from Sinclair and had trouble making it work, so he wrote to Sir Clive Sinclair, who sent new components and a personal note, sparking a future interest for Rickman.

The Digerati Glitterati explain how, why and when they got started, how they conceived the idea for their businesses and sold it to others, what motivated them, what influenced the types of company cultures they built, what kept them going in adversity and how they overcame their biggest challenges. The book explores the catalysts which turn technically‐focused people into CEOs. David Potter (Psion), for example lost his father at an early age and points out that this is true for about half of the CEOs in the FTSE100, speculating that it breeds a form of self‐reliance and self‐confidence. Conversely, Pasaquale Pistorio (STMicroelectronics) points to the pride and responsibility he learnt in helping his father as a boy.

Whilst the early formative influences were certainly important, the book highlights that it is more than early influences that makes a Digerati Glitterati. The intellectual power of the high‐tech industry is awesome – managing in such a science‐based, performance‐oriented, fiercely competitive world is, as the authors point out, challenging. However, as they illustrate, these technical/engineer CEOs are team players, and a recurring theme emerges throughout the interviews on the importance of the management team to the featured organizations. Indeed the Digerati Glitterati as portrayed by the authors demonstrate understanding of the importance of the team ethic and team dynamics. Langdon and Manners explore how the Digerati CEO uses and understands power, how they are persuaders not enforcers, motivators instead of pushers, and generators of energy and enthusiasm.

This book is a captivating account of the nature of leadership via exploration of 12 CEOs, many of whom are still at the leading edge of one of the most complex and competitive business arenas. Especially useful are the thematic indexes at the back that index company culture, motivation, financing and building a business, role models, company culture etc., making the book very manageable. The index allows the reader to quickly establish what particular founders said on any of the given themes. This book will prove to be of great value to students following management courses, particularly MBAs, and those interested in the nature of leadership. In addition, there are many lessons for would be entrepreneurs in the high‐tech arena.

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