Jim Taggart

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The Best Manager, Ever: Tales from the Management Crypt

 

We’ve all had good bosses, and more likely bad bosses that outnumber the former. This post is a more provocative commentary on leadership; however, it has important lessons for those people wanting to become effective, well-rounded leaders.

Your contribution is therefore important. Share your experiences of managers you’ve had: the good, the bad and the ugly. And if anyone’s brave enough, share where you’ve messed up as a manager but how you learned from the experience. And yes, yours truly made his share of mistakes as a new manager – so the kimono’s open. My sins?

When I was in my early thirties, 30 years ago, I was appointed to a management position in the area where I had worked for eight years. Yes, I knew the work technically. However, leadership, as opposed to management, is not an appointment – it is earned. Due to my own insecurities and wanting to do a good job as a manager, especially in the absence of any formal management training, I was a micro-manager.

When I gave presentations in the past on leadership I shared this experience. And when I asked the audience how many people like working for a micro-manager, surprisingly no one has ever raised their hand. Hmmmm. So that tells you something.

A few of my team mates who were younger didn’t like my style of management and figuratively slapped me on the head. I still thank them to this day, because many micro-managers – and there are lots out there – never “get it.” The result is high staff turnover, weak productivity, and the absence of creativity and innovation.

Fortunately, I got the message really fast back then. I worked 35 years before retiring and always despised micro-management. However, once I got over it when I was about 33 I became a delegator and, as I evolved as a manager, someone who believed in sharing the leadership. That is my personal leadership philosophy, and which was the subject of my masters thesis on leadership in the late nineties.

 

 

So let’s shift gears and turn to one of my heroes: Henry Mintzberg, a professor of management at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. If there’s one leadership book you should buy, make it Mintzberg’s book entitled Managing. It’s brilliant and builds on his empirical work over 35 years. He’s one of the few really grounded authors on management and leadership. Too much of the literature over the past four decades, unfortunately, has consisted of excessively fluffy, feel-good stuff. Mintzberg, who may be perceived as a bit of a curmudgeon, is a provocative thinker and writer.

One story he recounts in a footnote in his book is that of a British CEO who refused to allow employees to walk past his office door. The result was that they had to take a set of stairs to another floor. When employees met with this CEO in his office they had to sit on a chair that was at a lower level; that way the CEO could look down upon them.

Unfortunately, and unbelievably, this guy not only got promoted but received a knighthood from the Queen! Upon his departure from the company, his advice to his successor was: a) dress properly, b) don’t smoke and c) maintain control.

The end of the story? The CEO’s successor went into his first board meeting, took off his jacket, lit a cigar and asked: “What would you like to talk about?”

Now that’s my kind of leader (minus the cigar). This new CEO was about to demolish that company’s corporate culture and build a new one.

So now it’s your turn. Share your experiences.

Companies are communities. There’s a spirit of working together. Communities are not a place where a few people allow themselves to be singled out as solely responsible for success. — Henry Mintzberg

#leadership #management #managers #bosses

 


 

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