The technocrat is often perceived as uninspired, narrow-minded, overly focused on details,  a competent underling.  The opposing construct is that of the visionary: charismatic, impassioned, focused on the Big Picture, confident of his vision, a leader.

These stereotypes are exaggerations of individual differences in cognitive processing styles. Some people are systematic in their approach to action decisions; they are analytical and methodical, careful to gather sufficient information before reaching a decision. At the other extreme are the heuristic processors who use less effortful strategies, relying more on pre-existing beliefs and a few rules of thumb to guide their decision-making.

Of course, these individual differences aren’t absolute – they’re more like tendencies each of us possesses to a greater or lesser degree. Our moods also influence which processing style takes control at any given moment: negative moods trigger more systematic processing; positive moods trigger heuristic processing. Since emotions are sources of information about our environment, this makes perfect sense.  Tiptoe carefully when in danger; take carefree leaps when safe.

We need leaders who are able to navigate the range of processing styles, who can switch from seeing the forest to seeing the trees, and back again.  Leaders who are both technocrats and visionaries, whatever is needed in the historical moment. Who can think big and think small.

Or, at the very least, leaders who are good listeners and willing to learn from people who think differently than they do.