Management, the new leadership
Amongst the writing about leadership we often read about authenticity and humility; I don’t believe that these are the preserve of those highest in the hierarchy, with the most seniority. Leadership can and does come from all levels within the organisation, although when I have worked with senior people who can inspire great things in others – they are both authentic and brave enough to be humble.
Somewhere there has been some contamination of leadership ideals; egos have been fuelled by huge financial gains, and the more money people have, the more they seem to want. When is enough? When the ego inflates, it feeds arrogance and pumps up self importance. Humility and authenticity – no room for these.
If we look at the banking catastrophe, I believe that the majority of people working in the banks leading in the slow and long build up to the noise of the crash were living with discomfort. They knew that something was wrong. They knew because they deal with the day to day, the face to face, the real work. Those at the top of the hierarchy discounted, dismissed, devalued those below them. This isn’t the preserve of the banks.
Hierarchy does not equate to leadership.
When working as a customer services manager myself, I remember a senior manager who taught me so much, who led me to achieve great things. He showed me the way, and then got out of the way. He managed with humility, honesty, toughness and acuity that saw right into you and it was like a floodlight was shone into every corner of my part of the business. He would come down most days in my first six weeks, check in with how I was doing, and then the killer question – he would ask me something about the operation. He knew how to get me; if I didn’t know, I would go and find out. He never lifted a finger to do any of the work, and he didn’t know how to access our systems, but he knew what questions to ask me, that pointed me to get to intimately know each part of my complicated, messy and full of manual work arounds, operation. After that first six weeks, he stopped coming to see me and talked to the team instead. He didn’t need to ask me anymore because I knew that function better than anyone. We achieved so much. He managed me/us. A director – managing!
I have heard countless senior managers say “they don’t do the detail”. I would challenge this and say, if you don’t do the detail, you don’t know your business. The banking crisis reinforces this where the Board, the managers at the top of the hierarchy didn’t understand the products.
The time we spend thinking, thinking with others, doing; these vary between roles but regardless of where you are in the hierarchy – if you’re not managing, what are you doing?
I think vibrant, confident, energised, focussed, knowledgeable and influential management is the core of any successful business.
Leadership belongs to us all.