The balance of management

Photo by clairity

A few weeks ago Tim O’Reilly wrote on the Mix about creating a context for creativity. He discussed the idea of leadership by using a quote about writing by Edwin Schlossberg who wrote:

The skill of writing is to create a context in which other people can think

I totally agree with O’Reilly.

The more I think, read and write about it, I believe managing people is the art of balancing two activities – direction and support. You can’t have one without the other. But too much or too little of one or the other can be harmful.

On one hand, people need direction – be it a goal, a meaning or a vision. On the other hand, people need to create their own direction.

On one hand, people need the have the tools and resources to do their job. On the other hand, when the tools take away their ability to make judgments and dictate how they go about doing their job, we get cogs.

On one hand we want people to cast doubt, ask questions and experiment. On the other hand, we need to master the art of execution.

Thus, just like writing, management is about creating a context or environment where people can think, act, create and be human. This context should be made up from direction but it should also include support (in the wider sense of the word – from technical needs to psychological safety).

The problem is most managers associate direction with control and support with technical issues. These managers miss out on the potential of their employees because of a false belief that they know better and by that sacrifice the long-term for short-term productivity and efficiency.

It is time we start aspiring for a better balance.


2 Responses to “The balance of management”

  1. Anne Says:

    I think these control issues are typically demonstrated by managers attempting to climb the Corp ladder and they know best how to advance themselves. Quick results seem to be the key…
    In truth how do most corporations upper management regard a managers choice to continue in a position without seeking advancement. Not that advancement is a bad thing but what of those times when one has decided they enjoy their position, are good at it, and it is compatible with their personal life. How are these managers regarded by upper management? In the majority of my experiences they are looked down upon.
    I think the entire mind set needs adjustment. Wouldn’t it better serve both employees & Corp. to determine each case individually? We certainly can’t develop real relationships with any staff when were switching departments or locations every other year… Without these relationships we miss out on needed insight.

  2. sherfelad Says:

    Anne. I couldn’t agree more!

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