How to lead like a hipster

You might think having a beard and tattoos, and a track bike have nothing to do with management. Wrong!

by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic
Last Updated: 29 Jun 2015

Hipsterism is a global cultural phenomenon. It transcends sleeve tattoos, beards and bicycles. In fact, though rarely discussed, hipsterism has important repercussions for modern management in that its values, style and ethos may well gentrify management. If you want to find out for yourself, here are some basic recommendations to help you lead like a hipster.

Embrace vintage: Retro is good, even in management. You can adopt a true retro style by following the precepts of the original management gurus: Sun Tzu, Niccolo Machiavelli and Peter Drucker. They are a bit like vinyl records and vintage Persol sunglasses – purer and cooler than current stuff.

Be phlegmatic: Although the Queen of England isn't a hipster, she is surely a role model for hipsters around the world. That's because of her ability to look unimpressed and underwhelmed – even during her Diamond Jubilee. Likewise, hipster leadership is about inhibiting emotional extremes to remain always cool and composed. Excitement, joy or anger are too primitive, so they should be left to non-hipster managers. 'Bitchy resting face' is the ideal.

Embrace technology: It is one of the few modern things that can arouse hipsters. Get in touch with your inner geek and adopt as many technological innovations as you can, particularly if they are utterly pointless. Hipster leadership is techno-sexual par excellence. If your employees aren't early adopters, they don't deserve you.

Conform while pretending not to: Perhaps the most striking thing about hipsterism is that it is both a counter-culture and extremely conformist. From Chicago to Rio to Seoul, all hipster cafes, bars, shops and neighbourhoods look identical: like a homogeneous antidote to mainstream consumerism, which is just a more sophisticated and subtle manifestation of consumerism. Thus hipster leadership is all about cultivating your unique and creative style, while still following what everyone else does.

Remember style matters much more than substance: Hipsterism is all about presentation and packaging. There is little content other than a ludicrous backstory and as much intellectual depth as a TED talk. You can be a great hipster manager if you cultivate the art of impressions and remain superficial. As Oscar Wilde said: 'It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances. The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible.'

Dr Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic is an international authority in psychological profiling, people analytics and talent management. He is the CEO of Hogan Assessments and professor of business psychology at University College London and Columbia University. Follow Professor Chamorro-Premuzic on Twitter at @drtcp.

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