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The ‘Car Talk’ guys’ secret: expertise

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in Leaders & Managers,Leadership Skills

Even if you don’t do the grunt work, you have to understand it to lead.

Tom Magliozzi, who died in November 2014, co-hosted the radio show “Car Talk” with his brother Ray. The two of them got away with a ton of cornball shtick because of their deep knowledge about why machines work.

There is pleasure in following those who are really good at what they do. John Glenn, Julia Child, Norm Abram: We take comfort in their expertise, particularly when it’s expertise we lack.

It’s the same jolt of admiration you get when you ask a friend for her advice and watch her step into professional drag to pull out a depth of knowledge you’ve never known. You suddenly realize she’s a leader—a small-scale superhero.

That was the Magliozzis’ secret. Tom and Ray presented themselves as two regular guys yukking it up, but you sensed their brilliance. Both were MIT graduates; both were engineers. They knew why a car works, not just how it works, and could explain it, from first principles, with goofy analogies.

They faked cluelessness. It’s no surprise that they once got a call from the Space Shuttle.

— Adapted from “Why You Wasted a Perfectly Good Hour Listening to ‘Car Talk,’ ” Christopher Bonanos, Vulture.

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