Management Articles


You Can't Lead Without Managing (part 2)

By: Robert H. Kent, Ph.D., CMC

President of The Mansis Development Corporation, Dr. Kent is a specialist in the structure and management of small and medium-sized organizations, and frequently serves as a personal coach and management consultant to executives for solving their management and employee performance problems. Before founding his consulting company, Bob held senior management and executive positions in federal and provincial government and private corporations. He has been a director of several health care and service organizations and a consulting member of private and government task forces in the areas of government finance, organization structure, personnel management and executive development. Since 1972 he has lectured in management at several Canadian and American universities in the faculties of Management, Administrative Studies, Medicine and Continuing Education where he has been an award winner for excellence in teaching and professional expertise; and he has published over 125 books and articles on management.

Click here to read part 1.

One reason that many leaders don't manage their subordinates well is that they find it hard to be forthright and tactful with their managers. If you think that's an exaggeration, recall some of your own past experiences and ask yourself if the communication was typically candid and to-the-point.

Recently a company president fired a vice-president with the comment that this action would "send a message throughout the organization." It would indeed. But what message? For some it might be: "Even a vice-president has to perform." But for others it might be: "The president is an impulsive, insecure jerk and no job is safe." Some might interpret the firing to mean that the company is failing and they had better abandon ship.

Then there are the leaders who like to influence corporate values by dropping hints. These leaders are given to showing up unexpectedly at meetings, or walking around the building unannounced, or promoting people for reasons that aren't apparent, or nailing up a mission statement on every wall. As a result, uncontrolled or indecipherable messages stream from the executive suite throughout the whole organization. Bur "Managing by Dropping Hints" is a dangerous way to run a business. It's far too vague, subject to misunderstanding. Specific, objective, honest communication -- however foreign this may be to the person at the top -- is much safer.

It's a myth that managing people -- including executives -- is complex. Skills and procedures for constructively taking charge of an organization are not hard to learn and to use. You simply can't lead by inspiration alone. Leadership, vision, inspiration all matter. They are vital. But there are some new and often mundane skills that must be mastered if leadership is to be effective. The chief executives who succeed in getting their organizations to advance employ gentle, relentless pressure. They pay attention to detail. And they persevere. They are, in fact, effective managers.

Still, its hard to change personal habits acquired over a lifetime. The solution lies in building effective practices and procedures for executive management into an organization's operations and, ultimately into its culture so that its leaders can use the strength of the organization rather than just their own personality to make things happen.

Today, the men and women at the top are being bombarded with a host of seductive and contradictory ideas for ensuring corporate success in a changing world. They are being told that radical changes in corporate structure will be required to survive the 1990's and beyond. Slash management. Eliminate bureaucracy. Other voices tell them that traditional management structures are entirely appropriate for today's business problems -- if properly used.

The hunt is on for the quick fix and popular management gurus are only too ready to offer miracle cures. Quality Assurance, Total Customer Service, Self-Managed Teams, Employee Empowerment, Transformational Leadership -- the list is almost endless. In reality, there are no quick fixes or miracle cures. If business -- and government -- is to succeed in the years ahead, it needs to strengthen management at its most senior levels and avoid getting caught up in the current passion for visionary leadership.

© Copyright 2001 The Mansis Development Corporation

Other Articles by Robert H. Kent, Ph.D., CMC

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