Are you a duck or an eagle? A duck is someone who rigidly blames someone or something else for problems, whereas an eagle is someone who soars above the problem and solves it.
No doubt everyone thinks they are eagles but in Leading at a Higher Level the manager who sets the firm’s culture is deemed as much of a duck as the frontline pedants.
The authors have collected various examples of good and bad management from various sources to produce a useful and practical guide to leadership.
There is an excellent chapter on how to deal with reprimands and praising, which seems straightforward but it is this simplicity that makes it relevant.
It says every leader should set aside two hours a week to praise people.
It makes the simple point that no one ever says they are sick and tired of being praised and that it is important to be a consistent supporter of your staff. There is also reference to the well-known point about praising your staff after a reprimand to re-affirm their position.
There are excellent chapters on cultural transformations within companies and the difficulties it entails.
It offers some excellent pointers but the general theme is that major change takes persistence and detailed man management to help staff cope with changes. Most people react badly to change and new managers can face hostility from staff when they try to implement their own vision.
In a chapter on organisational leadership there is a runthrough of the reasons staff are opposed to change.
People take it personally, it claims, and feel alone and they focus on what they have to give up and the negatives.
The antidote to apathy and disenchantment is what the book calls the servant leadership, which is a leader who genuinely wants to help his staff achieve their goals.
“Rather than wanting people to please their bosses, servant leaders want to make a difference in the lives of their people and, in the process, impact the organisation,” it says.
It’s an altruistic thought but it basically means that effective man management and attention to detail are the key attributes of a good leader and the best way to enact change.
There is a chapter on empowerment on the same theme of blurring the lines between staff and leader and creating one team. This chapter does descend into rather tiresome management speak with a list on how to present things to staff. These include saying “visioning” instead of planning, “own your own job” instead of do as your told and “good judgement” instead of compliance. The last of these euphemisms almost certainly does not apply to the mortgage industry.
It seems hard to imagine the chief executive officer of Lloyds Banking Group telling his staff to use their good judgement when it comes to compliance. The Financial Services Authority would have a few things to say about that.
And everyone has heard a speech when someone says an equivalent of “visioning” instead of planning and the audience’s eyes roll. It is easy to sneer at this silliness but positive trigger words do help effective management – so the book has a point.
For the complacent manager this book is a reminder and a guide to the fact that leaders can always improve their staff’s performance.
Review by Samuel Dale