A journey from ‘I’ to ‘We’

A veteran in management reflects on the changes in organisational life

A journey from ‘I’ to ‘We’

ONE of the advantages of growing old is reflecting on the experiences you may have had and considering the implications.

I have been either practising, teaching, consulting or training in management for over 40 years and would like to share my reflections on the changes in organisational life.

The first major change has been the move from an autocratic and authoritative management style where all decisions were unilaterally made by the boss to an increasingly participative and consultative style of management where staff are involved in the management processes.

It has been a move from “I” to “We”, where power is based on influence and not authority, where respect and trust has to be earned and is no longer an assumption of rank.

It is no longer good enough to merely deliver the results, you have to inspire and motivate those around you. Managing and leading teams is now the bedrock of successful modern organisations.

Lead, don’t manage

There has also been a significant move from the concept of managing people to that of leading people, from the management principles of planning, organising and controlling to the leadership principles of sharing the vision, empowering, motivating and inspiring others.

It seems to me we are moving from the old world of transactional management to the new world of transformational leadership where, as well as being concerned with the day-to-day operational management of our organisations, we need to consider tomorrow’s business and how we need to meet the changing needs of our organisations, marketplace, customers and employees.

Transformational leadership requires us to take risks, think creatively and courageously, be decisive, create and communicate the vision of where we are going and how we are going to get there.

Within my lifetime, we have moved from a relatively stable business world to a far more hazardous and turbulent environment where change is the only constant and where jobs for life have disappeared.

Managers must deal with complexity, ambiguity and uncertainty.

Management has never been easy but the demands to increase performance, cut costs and meet challenging targets, all with reduced headcount and budget, have never been greater. 

Our organisations are also becoming increasingly complex. When I started work, reporting structures were relatively straightforward.

Now they may be much more complicated with the emergence of matrix management systems involving employees reporting to several managers at the same time.

Our organisations are becoming flatter, leaner, smaller, more dispersed and more global. Remote management is becoming a major issue for some companies.

We have moved from the world of IQ to the world of EQ. Managers have to be aware of their own emotional intelligence and the need to develop interpersonal skills.

Twenty years ago, if you hit your targets within your budget you could manage as you pleased. That’s not true anymore — high IQ but low EQ now spells disaster

We have also become more multicultural and diverse in our work populations which, in turn, brings new business pressures when managing people.

Finally, managers are facing the problems of managing generation X and Y, who are radically different from their parents and have to be managed in a more enlightened way than the past.

New role

What then are the implications for managers today? I suspect that the role of the manager has radically changed over the decades.

Managers must truly be aware that people matter, develop a willingness to continually learn and develop new skills to enhance their versatility, understand that change starts with themselves and be ready to act as role models for change.

They must become enthusiastic and passionate in training and coaching subordinates committed to developing their potential. It seems to me that the new role of a manager is that of a coach, a mentor, a supervisor that can nurture and develop talent.

Managers must learn to delegate more and actually have the courage to do it. Managers must have a greater awareness of their own strengths and development needs and be prepared to work on these.

Lifelong learning is no longer a buzzword, it is a continuous, never-ending process of self-development.

Be aware of what is really important in terms of career and personal life. Stay flexible, remain open, become curious and enjoy the job. Your 40 years pass in the blink of an eye.

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