Being an effective boss involves more than issuing orders. It means behaving in an appreciative, unselfish way. Get it right, and you’ll get the best out of your employees.
What we know today as ‘management’ took many centuries to evolve. For most of history, leadership was regarded as little more than the ability and strength of will to issue orders and kill anyone who disobeyed.
During the 1500s, Italian politician and philosopher, Niccolò Machiavelli, became one of the first thinkers to appreciate that both fear and love play a part in making leaders more powerful and effective.
Some 250 years later, in The Wealth of Nations, economist Adam Smith described how productivity could be increased through the division of labour.
Then, in the late 19th century, economist Alfred Marshall and others started recognising the theoretical underpinnings of management as a profession.
The Harvard Business School was established in 1908, and the MBA (masters in business administration) degree introduced in 1921.
Despite this, ‘management’ was still seen as a mechanical function, where manipulative techniques were applied to get people to do jobs faster and at lower cost. Only later, when Dale Carnegie’s 1936 bestseller, How to win friends and influence people, showed how our personal behaviour affects others, did the ‘soft side’ of management begin to get recognition.
In 1946, Peter Drucker, the father of modern management, arrived on the scene. In an era where ‘management’ was still largely understood as ‘the boss orders, others obey’, Drucker’s work led to a growing realisation that the ‘soft’ side of management, namely, the personal behaviour of the manager, directly affects business performance.
A real-life example
All of this came to mind recently after my niece, Nancy, a PA to a senior executive in a large corporation, called seeking help.
“It’s been a disaster for me” she said. “I got on famously with X, but Y, my new boss, is a pig with not the slightest clue of how to manage. What can I do about it?” Here are the main problems she highlighted:
Nancy was happy with all the terms and conditions of her employment. She liked the company, was well paid, had generous leave, medical aid, pension and so on.
But she was demotivated to the point of resigning from her job due to the ‘soft’ issues. Be conscious of your behaviour at work.
It affects the morale of your team, for better or worse, more than you realise.
If your attitude and actions are anything like those of Nancy’s boss, you could end up losing talented people!
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