Is my friend right? Do you really have to be born a manager, or leader? Is it true that some of those skills can never be learned?
In 2004 Henry Mintzberg famously asked for “managers, not MBAs” in his book of the same name. In May 2005 the Harvard Business Review published “How Business Schools Lost Their Way,” Warren Bennis’ and James O’Toole’s take on managers failing because of the theoretical-centered education provided by most top business schools.
Is there really anything new? Can any management guru teach you something that hasn’t yet been discovered and put into practice?
In fact, when you encounter “experts” who claim they’ve discovered something new, my advice is, run! The truth is that it’s all about existing knowledge presented in new ways. More than that, it’s about teaching knowledge in ways the student understands—and uses.
Everyone who teaches—and managers should teach their employees—ought to be able to recognize quickly how well the student is taking in the material being taught, and how to adjust the flow of information to each student’s needs. Among the essential components for a successful teaching experience are high standards and expectations, ongoing feedback, and a dynamic that engages both teacher and student. The problem is that too often the process becomes the focus instead of the results. How often have you watched a film touted as an action movie and thought “Come on—where’s the action they promised?”
- In today’s fast-moving world, managers have to stay on top of the game constantly if they want to remain an asset to the company. Not only that, they have to learn how to use a wider and more complex array of tools. Having so many tools is actually an improvement; remember the old adage, “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” But it’s up to the manager to choose the best tool to meet each specific situation.
- A successful manager will offer employees the support, encouragement, and resources necessary to get the job done. No true manager wants to be a puppet master. Support and encouragement are also important elements of implementing change. The successful manager understands that change works when the employees get positive reinforcement along with the proper tools.
- The manager’s primary duty is to strike a balance between the goals of the business and the expectations of the employees. We all know managers who only live on one side of the rope—hardliners who figuratively walk over bodies when it’s to their advantage, or sympathizers who listen to every side of an argument but who fail to set goals based on what they’re hearing. One-dimensional managers like these almost never win the confidence or respect of their employees.
Manager or leader?
There is a great difference between the ordinary manager and the leader. Managers usually live by the rules made by others. Leaders make the rules.
Leaders will build up employees and help them grow, giving them real opportunities to one day become leaders themselves. They understand that those following them are not after their job. Leaders motivate, and they listen, so they know what their employees want and the tools they need to get the job done. Leaders also know how to balance between giving employees help and allowing them to make their own decisions.
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