What Makes a Good Manager?

Leadership is not about hammering an employee into the ground in a futile quest for blind subservience.  The following observations are made by Harvard Business School Professor Linda Hill, author of an influential 2007 article in Harvard Business called “Becoming the Boss”:

TO BE OR NOT TO BE … A GOOD MANAGER?

  • Give up on the myth of authority and recognize the need to negotiate your way through a web of management and co-worker interdependencies or face frustration and failure.
  • Good managers must earn their subordinates’ respect and trust in order to exercise significant authority. They need to demonstrate to subordinates their own character, their competence, and their ability to get things done before those subordinates are likely to follow their lead.
  • New managers, insecure in their roles, often seek absolute compliance to orders from their subordinates. But what they learn over time is that “compliance” is not the same as “commitment.”  The challenge for managers is to nurture a strong sense of common commitment to shared goals – rather than one of blind allegiance to the managers’ dictates.
  • Instead of focusing on one-on-one relationships, managers must shape a team culture. Focus not on friendship but on building a team culture. In that way, Ms. Hill says, “a leader can unleash the problem-solving prowess of the diverse talents that make up the team.”
  • Keeping an operation running smoothly is a difficult task, and can absorb all of a new manager’s time and energy. But if that’s all the manager does,  he or she is making a big mistake. “New managers also need to realize they are responsible for recommending and initiating changes that will enhance their groups’ performance,” she writes. “Often – and it comes as a surprise to most – this means challenging organizational processes or structures that exist above and beyond their area of formal authority. Only when they understand this part of the job will they begin to address seriously their leadership responsibilities.”

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