Henry Mintzberg, legendary scholar? and Cleghorn Professor of Management Studies at McGill University in Montreal, has picked 42 of the best posts from his wildly popular blog and turned them into his new book, Bedtime Stories for Managers.
Mintzberg writes, “Just try not to be outraged by anything you read, because some of my most outrageous ideas turn out to be my best. They just take a while to become obvious.”
One thing to better leadership
One of my favorite stories came at a time Mintzberg ate atrociously bad scrambled eggs during a flight on Eastern Airlines, which went belly-up in 1991.
As he shared that story with a team of managers from IBM years later, one of them felt compelled to tell Mintzberg another story–one about the CEO of Eastern Airlines. Here’s Mintzberg’s account:
The CEO of Eastern Airlines came rushing in at the last minute for a flight. First class was full, so they bumped a paying customer to put the CEO where I guess he had become accustomed. Apparently feeling guilty, he reportedly made his way back to economy class. (No mention was made of his having to ask where it was.) There he apologized to the customer and introduced himself as the CEO of the airline. The customer replied: “Well, I’m the CEO of IBM.”
Mintzberg concludes that the real issue was not about who was bumped but, rather, who made the call to do the bumping. In other words, status was the underlying issue that affects so many managers today.
“Higher class counted for more than common sense,” writes Mintzberg. “Managing is not about sitting where you have become accustomed. It’s about eating the scrambled eggs.”
Managing by status and positional authority kills engagement and crushes the souls of organizations. Here are some of my own observations of how status impacts teams for the worse.
1. Managers holding status expect others to serve them.
Over time, managers riding on status and large egos–who take al the credit and hog the spotlight–will cause underappreciated team members to burn out. On the contrary, great leaders put the focus on their employees, recognizing and praising them for the team’s accomplishments.
2. Managers holding status are typically entitled.
They command others to do what they are no longer willing to domanage from afar and above and drive people through fear and control. On the contrary, humble and confident leaders never ask from the team what they are unwilling to do themselves. They are often out in front, in the trenches, leading the way by example.
3. Managers holding status revel in their positional authority.
They use the business environment or company mission to promote themselves, rather than focusing on the organizational mission for the mission’s sake. They fail to align their and their team’s goals with the larger business goals because they’re playing for the name on the back of the jersey.
4. Managers holding status are rarely accessible.
Good leaders, particularly during hard times, are out in front of the organization openly sharing plans and change for the future. They don’t hide behind closed doors or conveniently delegate important communication needs to others, as do managers holding status and positional authority. When employees look to their leaders for information and clear expectations when the chips are down, unlike those who manage by status, good leaders are visible, present, and especially adept at “walking their four corners.”