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Rise of the anti-manager

Rise of the anti-manager

Rather than taking an axe to already decimated workplaces as the key to turning around organisational underperformance, perhaps organisations should pay greater attention to the performance of their managers.

Where have all the good managers gone? The Peter Principle has long been a fact of corporate life - the statistical inevitability that in any organisation there will always be a group of people who are promoted beyond their competence. But now the happenstance Peter Principle has become the Peter Prerequisite: somewhere along the line, incompetence has become a mandatory requirement for appointment to positions of responsibility, and that applies all the way up to mahogany row. It is difficult to fathom how this can be. Despite the fashion for psychometric testing, performance evaluations and myriad human resources systems, ill-advised appointments and poor management abound. Or should that be because of?

Anyone who has worked alongside a gifted, inspiring or just plain smart manager will know the unalloyed pleasure of being in the company of someone who "gets it". Their presence is always felt - for all the right reasons. They create a buzz of achievement and expectation. They instil confidence in the people around them.

They possess a certain charisma, they're comfortable with who they are and they carry their authority with ease. They're capable of communicating with staff without the aid of a whiteboard or PowerPoint presentation, they're interested in the opinions of others, and they listen. Yes, they're ultimately responsible to higher forces in the corporate hierarchy and their role in life is not to be everyone's best friend - but they engender trust and confidence.

Do these managers really exist? They do, but they are an endangered species. Their place has been taken by the anti-manager: men and women who have no business being in charge of paper clips, let alone people. They range from dull, inept toads incapable of an original thought or spontaneous action, to poisonous psychopaths who wreak havoc in their workplaces. The anti-manager - the antithesis of everything a leader should be - has become a hallmark of the modern organisation.

Too many organisations no longer place a priority on management excellence. They have lost the ability, and the will, to identify, nurture and reward rising talent. The presence of unqualified and egregious managers saps what enthusiasm remains in over-worked, under-resourced workplaces. A recent survey by exit-interview specialist Exit Info concluded that bad managers are responsible for one in five resignations in Australia.

As the slowdown continues to bite, we can expect organisations to resort to mass retrenchments. Rather than taking an axe to already decimated workplaces as the key to turning around organisational under-performance, perhaps organisations should pay greater attention to the performance of their managers.

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