By Troy Headrick
I didn’t publish a blog here last week. I kept coming up with possible topics, but none of them felt right for one reason or another. I’m getting better and better at trusting that little voice inside that says, “Wait, Troy, something feels wrong about this. Be patient. You’ll know it—very viscerally—when the right idea presents itself.”
So I waited. And this morning, when driving in to work, the RIGHT IDEA did present itself. And I just knew that I needed to write the post that follows.
I’m a manager. The people I manage—I don’t really have to “manage” them because they don’t need me to tell them what to do and how to be effective—are talented and extraordinarily bright. They are self-starters too. I’m blessed to be working with such people.
I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to manage people and what good management looks like. These are topics of great important because all of us, at one time or another, will find that we’ve been put in charge of something. We’ll find that we’ve either taken on the role of leader or had that role foisted upon us.
I’ve also been thinking about good management quite a bit lately because I’ve seen plenty of bad management. None of us want to be bad managers. Bad management can actually hurt people, and none of us ever willing wants to do harm.
There is this old way of thinking that goes something like this: Managers have to be strong. They have to run a tight ship. They have to make sure that no one breaks the rules or goofs off. Such thinking is based on several premises, all of which need to be critically scrutinized. First of all, there is only one way that strength can manifest itself. Secondly, those under our management are naturally prone to stray away from the straight and narrow unless we watch them like hawks.
Several years ago, back when I was teaching at the renowned Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey, I was asked to create an interesting hybrid course with a professor in the Department of Philosophy. As a result, I was given the opportunity to teach some wonderful “Great Books.” One book we taught was On Duties by Cicero.
Cicero—a fellow who knew something about managing people and what skillful leadership looks like—said there are two ways to manage and lead. Method one involves the use of fear. A leader can actively work to have those she is managing fear her. This will be effective (for a time), but such a method comes with a risk. The first time such a leader turns her back, she is likely to find a knife stuck into it, which means that the power she thinks she has is really illusory. Method two relies heavily on the use of love and respect. If a manager loves and respects those she is leading, they will follow her anywhere and all the time. Plus, a loving and respectful manager will never have to worry about any sort of uprising. The power such a leader has is absolute without being tyrannical. Such a manager and leader is really omnipotent but not exploitative.
Here’s something we can all take to the bank: We get from others what we give to them. If we distrust others, they will likely distrust us. When we give kindness and respect, we get kindness and respect in return. If we treat people like professionals, they will behave professionally.
Perhaps I’m being too naïve here? What do you think? I look forward to hearing your thoughts.
Troy Headrick’s personal blog can be found here.