“People don’t want to be managed. They want to be led. Whoever heard of a world manager? World leader, yes. Educational leader. Political leader. Religious leader. Community leader. Labor leader. Business leader. They lead. They don’t manage. The carrot always wins over the stick. Ask your horse. You can lead your horse to water but you can’t manage him to drink. If you want to manage somebody, manage yourself. Do that well and you’ll be read to stop managing. And start leading.”

Printed by United Technologies Corporation in the Wall Street Journal

When I read this, it rings true to me. My bells and whistles go off and I do hop kicks in my head. My red flags go down. I know I don’t want to be managed.  I want to lead and be led.  I know my husband and [adult] kids don’t want to be managed.  In fact, I can’t think of anyone who wants to be managed, unless of course he/she has subjugated that role to others because of being brainwashed into believing that they can’t manage or lead themselves.

Let’s say we agree with this, that people don’t want to be managed.  Then what is management for?  Why do so many seek to manage and why have we spent so many millions of dollars on the management sciences?  And why is leadership such a hot topic today inspiring untold numbers of articles, blogs, movements such as Lead Change Group, etc?  Maybe just maybe we got off course somewhere and all bought the idea that we could manage people.

So given these millions of dollars spent on management development, management sciences, etc., and the pervasive idea that managing people is possible, what does that say about our history and our focus?  You might say it seems ludicrous to think that we could get rid of management.   How will all those human resources, those people, be directed and controlled?

What will happen to bosses and supervisors and managers?  People need  them, really they do.  If you think that way, I assure you that you will find ways to be right.  You will prove that people are not trustworthy, that they need you telling them what to do.  You will find ways to justify your position.  But is that really getting you what you want? Are people performing to their utmost for you, exceeding all expectations? If you left would they follow you?

On the other hand, you may say that you yourself rely on others to manage you, to decide for you, to think for you.  Does that really make you happy? Or do you complain to your spouse, your family, your friends on a regular basis about your job?

One specific example of what I am talking about comes to mind that illustrates this perfectly.  In fact, I was speaking with a President of a company today and she mentioned the same example.  Most of us have been part of a United Way campaign.  In the early days, these campaigns were delegated to management to run.  Typically management would take the tact of talking to their employees about the importance of being a good citizen and helping to fund helping agencies so their patrons could have a hand up (effectively trying not to appear to strong arm you into giving so that the company goals could be met.)

Then, one year things changed.  The leaders asked for employee volunteers to lead the campaigns. Everyone couldn’t wait to show up to the next new event, and attendance and giving doubled and tripled.  You saw people showing their true talents, coming alive, doing things you had no idea they could do.  The fun quotient spiked, the giving exceeded goals, employee morale improved, and the new office stories were accompanied with more laughter.   Hmmm – no management in the picture.

Personally, I’d like to join United Technologies Corporation’s movement to get rid of management, at least management in the sense of managing people. Let’s leave management to manage things.  We will always need to manage our resources of time, money and materials.  We still need management, because we will always need controls, oversight, compliance, and so on.  That doesn’t go away.

When it comes to people, let’s lead ourselves first, and when we have mastered that, we are ready to lead others.  And when we lead others, let’s use that term in the same way we would use the term serve.  Let’s be empowering leaders, who trust and believe in people and want to inspire them to grow and become the best they can be. Let’s cast a vision, rally people behind it, showing them what they have to gain personally and professionally in achieving it.  Let’s grow other leaders.

Let’s manage things and lead people.

Cynthia Stewart
Cynthia is passionate about serving others. Her life-long obsession has been to model Jesus as a servant leader. Jesus' model raises the bar, challenging her to give her highest and best in all situations, and gave rise to her pursuit of excellence. She is the chief evangelist for LeadQuality.
Cynthia Stewart

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