In Management, One Size Doesn't Fit All

Jared Wade


September 1, 2010

When it comes to management, there is no one right way to get the job done. Many have tried to codify the exact tenets an executive should follow to become a great manager, but even the best lists cannot ensure success. Ultimately, it is more art than science. The soft skills matter, and knowing how to deal with individuals in unique situations is not something that can be taught in a book. Or a classroom.

In Bury My Heart at Conference Room B, however, Stan Slap attempts to explore perhaps the one thing that every great manager needs: commitment. "Getting a big paycheck, working 12-hour days and being glued to a Blackberry at night and on the weekends are not signs of emotional commitment," he writes. "What really drives employees is a sense that their personal values are being met in both their company and the environment at work."

The paradox in this relationship is that the manager, traditionally, must give precedence to the rules and procedures of the company over the needs and desires of the individual she supervises. The manager must be the "boss," enforcing hierarchal mandates and, in the process, deflating the ambition and commitment of her employees. In turn, this also deflates the manager and leads to a corporate culture where every stakeholder is being forced to either adhere to or enforce protocols that are incongruent with their personal values. 

Slap suggests that it does not have to be that way. He shows how companies can tear down the wall between managers and subordinates and create a working environment where everyone is engaged. 

It seems radical. And it just might be. But it has worked in some places. 

So while it may not be realistic for every company, it is at least worth exploring. Even without a total cultural overhaul, at least some of these ideas can translate to a business where iron-fisted management will never go out of style. In that way then, I guess, the tenets of Bury My Heart at Conference Room B make it just like any other management tome.

Jared Wade is a freelance writer and a former editor of Risk Management.

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