Good managers are so rare. The worst part is that you still don’t know what makes a good manager. Is it professional experience that makes a good manager? However, many of them still perform well even after switching industries. Is it the level and type of business education they had? However, many of them did not go to business school. There have been many attempts in the past to understand the qualities of good managers, for example, Gallup has discovered that their characteristics are that they are motivated, that they have self-confidence, that they create a culture of responsibility, build relationships and make decisions based on productivity. Many of these attempts to find the characteristics of good managers are credible, but still questionable. I would not repeat these findings in this article, but would resort to the explanation of a philosophical answer, as they have been refined by centuries of wisdom and therefore carry more weight in arguments.
The philosophical answer to a good manager lies in what Ackoff calls the path to the meta-ideal. A good manager is an ideal human being with superior activities. Since the institutions he manages capture the meta-themes of society and guide the life activities of other individuals, a good manager as a meta-ideal would be appropriate. Ackoff summarizes the pursuits of a human, from the works of ancient Greek philosophers as follows:
- The scientist – the pursuit of truth
- The politico-economic – the pursuit of power and abundance
- Ethics-morals – the pursuit of good and virtue
- Aesthetics – the pursuit of beauty
Good managers must be the ultimate pursuers of the truth. They must be objective, factual and thorough. No management decision-making can take place in the air without a factual understanding of the industry, competitors, consumers and regulations. He must work as a scientist, but with a narrow vision of seeking the truth about his organizations, and of going further in the collection and analysis of various data. His analysis is objective; he measures emotions but is not emotional when making decisions. It develops and follows action and compels others to do the same.
Good managers should also have access to resources. When everyone is eyeing precious, scarce, inimitable, non-substitutable resources, access to these resources is a political game. Good managers manage such access politically; not that they engage in office politics. They must also ensure efficient use of these resources, which makes them the ultimate economists in their own world. Thus, controlling access to quality resources and ensuring efficient use makes the politico-economic pursuit of managers a desirable characteristic.
The relevance of the ethical-moral pursuit of managers will be the most debatable part. Gellerman in his 1986 HBR article argued that good managers make bad ethical choices. However, all organizations that survive long are built on a solid foundation of ethics and morals. The manager’s ability to guide and lead depends in part on his moral behavior. Without moral character, no other virtue can make a good manager. Strong high moral and ethical values are expected by other members of the organization of any manager. His role in resolving organizational conflicts requires a high level of trust on the part of other members, which is impossible without the kindness and virtues of a manager. While short-term profits in transactions can be expected from unethical managers, no long-term success can be expected.
And finally, good managers are connoisseurs of aesthetics. They have fun in their work, appreciate the beauty of everything, and above all attach importance to creativity. Managerial work is something beautiful and like any other art, good managers appreciate the beauty of their work. And for all good managers, it is the search for this beauty in their work that reveals a greater weight than the other three – scientific, political-economic and ethical-moral aspects.
Yes, the pursuit of a successful manager is the pursuit of a meta-ideal in all of these dimensions. There is no surprise now why good managers are so rare.
The opinions expressed above are those of the author.
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