If you ask a highly successful manager, a great leader what it is that makes them so effective don’t expect to get the answer that those who work with them would give. Even the best often lack insight and don’t see themselves the way others see them.
They see themselves as paternalistic looking after and out for their staff. Those who worked for them describe a strict Victorian parent figure, sever and distant, feared rather than respected. They view themselves as pragmatic their colleagues speak of a ruthless streak. They consider one of their strengths to be their ability to focus and not be distracted, their critics refer to a blinkered approach. They describe themselves as confident and assertive others refer to arrogant and aggressive behaviour. They talk of a management style based on coaching and mentoring those who have been coached and mentored call it bullying. They claim to have a special skill for spotting and developing talent others say they have a selective memory only for the successes.
I worked for a director who thought himself decisive and often refers to his favourite Tom Petty song,” I won’t back down“, his staff complained he was to easily influenced by the last person he spoke to. Yet he was effective mostly because he surrounded himself with very able people who liked him and wanted to deliver for him.
Typically we tend to over look a managers short comings and forgive their abrasive and opinionated behaviour whilst they continue to be effective and deliver impressive results. However once they start to lose the Midas touch the critics, including their staff, are quick to draw attention to unattractive and unacceptable aspects of their management style. This comes as a shock to successful managers not use to unflattering or critical feedback but they are not going to change instead they simply point defensively and irritably to their impressive track record.
The lesson to be drawn from this is that great managers do not necessarily have any great insight into their own behaviour and are therefore not a reliable source to answer the question “what made you so effective?” All they can say is they did it their way and for a time at least it worked very well.
Blair McPherson www.blairmcpherson.co.uk