Leadership and management: No place for kids

Ray Petersen –
petersen_ray@hotmail.com –

Many of us have had good employers, and not so good, good leaders and not so good, good managers and not so good, and we’ve probably too, been good employees and not so good.
Good employers, leaders and managers can make good employees, but there is no certainty that good employees will make good employers, leaders and managers of those above them.
Politician and author Bruce Barton says, “It is said that leaders are born, not made. The saying is true to this degree, that no man can persuade people to do what he wants them to do unless he genuinely likes them and believes that what he wants them to do is to their best advantage.”
At the same time, the great Vince Lombardi, coach of the Green Bay Packers, said, “Leaders are made, they are not born. They are made by hard effort, which is the price all of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile.”
So, who is right? Me, I prefer to think that leaders are of course, born, and then they are made.
But they aren’t, or cannot be made, on a superior quality babies bottle, a privileged upbringing or enhanced education, and a facile path upwards through the ranks of a family owned business. This simply makes them, eventually, an employer, a boss, with no greater organisational value than those on the ‘shop floor.’
Leadership is still about inspiration, however it’s difficult to inspire people when you have no awareness of the challenges and issues they face in their everyday lives, both at and away from work. A good leader will inspire those around them if they demonstrate empathy without weakness, if they value their employees’ opinions while staying true to their own beliefs, and if they use the magic word, ‘we’. If you are inexperienced, you will rarely have those qualities.
Employers usually operate in a very different world. One where the extraneous, usually financially associated issues involved in owning a business often run a very poor second to the organisational and welfare issues of the employees.
Employers have been battered in movies throughout time immemorial, and they probably deserve it, as the caricatures of those such as Montgomery Burns, the miserly, penny-pinching Nuclear Plant boss from the Simpsons, Meryl Streep’s Miranda Priestly, from ‘The Devil Wears Prada,’ was pretty much an arch-villain, typecast boss of the feminine variety, and who can ever forget Michael Douglas’s completely irredeemable character, Gordon Gecko, in Wall Street, opposite Tom Cruise, are actually close enough to employers we have known at some time or another.
Now, this is not about employers, managers, or leaders per se, but is more about the entitlement that those born into wealth and privilege believe they have to leadership and management positions. The sons of the wealthy and privileged don’t have any right to commercial, business or industrial hierarchy, even though they may believe they do. That’s called entitlement.
The pathway to legitimate leadership and management is built upon experience, knowledge, skills, understanding, and the ability to take those you have responsibility for, yes, each one of them, on a journey. You must respect them, respect their skills, knowledge and understanding of what they do, and be able to interact, and communicate effectively with them.
The hierarchal model, as often practised globally, is seriously flawed in the workplace, because there is no right, no entitlement, no deference to hierarchal decisions, accompanied as they are by servitude. A social environment can not only survive, but flourish in a hierarchal state, while the workplace has none of the same responsive social structure of domesticity.
Management and leadership are no place to be learning the ropes. Potential managers must appreciate the opportunity to learn from artisans and experts, tradesmen and labourers. If you are worth waiting for, so are the title, the salary, and the perks.