Managing Performing Living
Prof. Fredmund Malik numbers among Europe's leading mangement thinkers. He is head of Management Zentrum St. Gallen, management training and consulting firm that maintains offices in St. Gallen, Zurich, London, Vienna, Toronto and Shanghai, and has roughly 220 employees.
Managing Performing Living
THE IDEAL MANAGER-A WRONG QUESTION
One of the questions most frequently asked is: What should an ideal manager be like? What characteristics should he or she have?
There is hardly a discussion on management where this question does not pop up. It goes back to a conscious or subconscious notion: that of the ideal manager. As soon as they hear the word "management," most people reflexively wonder: What is the ideal manager like? This question also dominates the literature on management, and most of the training programs offered for executives. Still, it is a question that is simply wrong.
The Universal Genius-A Stumbling Block
After more than 40 years of empirical research in this field, it is easy to answer this question today. Everything that could be researched in this field has been researched. As a result, we know the profile of an ideal manager in great detail.
Let me give you some examples: In a study, 600 of the largest companies in Germany were questioned on the management qualities they look for. The result was striking: entrepreneurial, a team-builder, communicative, visionary, international perspective, ecological and social focus, integrity, charisma, multicultural skills, and intuitive decision-making . Well, there's not much we could find objectionable here.
In the bulletin of a large Swiss bank that operates globally, there was an article by one of its top managers on the "Twelve I's of the Ideal Profile." It told us that, apart from possessing other qualities, the manager of the future must be interrogative-integral , and an integrating intermediary as well as intercommunicative-instructive ... Perhaps not quite the qualities we learn at school.
In a recent issue of the most widely distributed management magazine in the German speaking world, a piece called "The ABC of New Requirements" was published which listed a total of 45 "key qualities for the future manager." These were divided into "personal qualities, management qualities and organizational factors"-a compendium of desirable skills. To make it seem more practical the piece was presented in the form of a test which could be taken and evaluated immediately. The fact that certain terms in the test-such as "communicative competence," "empathy," "future-mindedness" and "system integration"-are open to widely differing interpretations was casually overlooked. If you achieved a score between 1.0 and 2.5, you were told that presumably "you meet all the requirements in the new profile of a business virtuoso" ...
Examples like these abound. They are typical and representative of a universal way of thinking that has gained ground not only in business but also in other social spheres. Peculiar requirements like these appear in most job advertisements, and a major share of management tools used in practice build on things such as performance assessment systems, potential analyses, recruitment and selection processes, remuneration systems, and many more.
I, too, learnt all of these things in university, and for the reasons given above I accepted them-almost. Why "almost"? Because I was lucky enough to have worked with colleagues and staff even before my university study, owing to my prior occupation. I had also collected experiences with bosses, good and bad ones. These were real people, as opposed to academic fictions. I knew how things worked in a company. That kept me from believing anything just because it was taught at the university-and often by faculty with little or no practical experience. Plausibility, or the fact that it is taught in universities or is the prevalent opinion, is no guarantee of the correctness of a concept. What type of idea is spread by these lists and catalogues of requirements? What is the basic type of manager that emerges here? It is the image of a un