How (not) to be a Manager

Leadership is solving problems. The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help or concluded you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.  Colin Powell


A friend once described a person as “more acquainted with Mr. Machiavelli than I would feel comfortable with.” A just saying, but if you are so clearly in the camp of Machiavelli, well, then you aren’t really Machiavellian. You see (not that I am advocating acting badly) if you decide to be nefarious, you must be QUIETLY nefarious. If you want to manage people, you must be able to cover the lies (and dead bodies) with perfect ease. Or don’t start.

Either be honest or spend hours reading about Bismarck (or be a reprehensible weasel but we don’t talk about them). Those are your choices. Now Darling, I would never advocate lying but when you have a team of 30 reprobates to whip into shape and a hard deadline with the C-suite breathing down your neck like Smaug, then you will need to tell a few white lies, do some delicate psychological manipulation and be generally devious, in a nice way. In a refined way. In a subtle way. In a way that doesn’t sent any of the reprobates running behind your back, sabotaging equipment, altering spreadsheets or causing general mayhem.

Study Bismarck.

[Note – Darling, don’t try psychological manipulation and deviousness in your personal life. Keep scheming for the office. Tell the people you love that you love them and don’t sneak. Nothing causes carpenter ants to nest in your roof beams faster than lying to a significant other.]

A handy list of what NOT to do:

  • Send an e-mail ‘I have X information that you need in my office’ then immediately dash out of your office, locking the door, and disappear for 3 hours.
  • If someone asks you for information that you have at hand, tell them to read the e-mail.
  • Announce personal information about X in front of X’s colleagues.
  • Make everyone attend a meeting to discuss the schedule for a series of outside consultants who are coming over the next six months. Have someone stand up and thank you for all your hard work. Then have another man stand up and thank you for your hard work. Allow everyone to leave after 45 minutes, without ever showing the schedule.
  • Incessantly tell people that you are a ‘people person’ and do nothing as a senior staff member screams at another employee in front of you.
  • Tell staff that you worked hard to change various situations for their benefit, when in fact you had no intention to help and only did the changes because upper management made it compulsory.
  • Telling an employee (X) you worked hard to get special benefit for X, when X can easily find out you were forced to do against your will.
  • Announce that you really value input from everyone and that the company only grows when all personal have input into all decisions that affect them at the same meeting you announce several unexpected personal changes.
  • Announce that ‘your office door is always open to listen to problems’ at the same meeting that you tell staff that they can only bring complaints to their direct supervisor (i.e. not you).
  • Give subordinates demeaning nicknames.