‘Empirical’ managers are holding Greek firms back

«Most Greek enterprises are trying to implement third-generation strategies with first-generation managers,» is one of the tentative conclusions of an ongoing university study based on a questionnaire to about 200 middle-ranking executives. The project, headed by Professor Dimitris Bourantas, director of the MBA executive program at the Athens University of Economics, shows that Greek enterprises, especially those in the public sector, have a serious leadership problem and that their top managers lag in administrative and managerial skills behind their counterparts in other developed countries, with commensurate effects on the performance of firms. Most top managers have no essential or advanced academic training in management and rarely attend any related training programs, while their style of management tends to be «empirical.» The respondents to the questionnaire are all college degree holders now following graduate programs in business management. The project is planned to be expanded in order explore whether a middle-ranking executive’s level of training, know-how and management skills affects his commitment to his firm. In an interview with Kathimerini, Bourantas said the crucial role of top executives is almost self-evident. «Success or failure lies in their hands. They determine the present and future of their firms. They formulate the strategies, set the business targets, structures, systems, processes and policies, and are responsible for the results. As leaders, they have the task and the potential for inspiring staff by providing visions of a better future. It is their responsibility to create an environment promoting initiative, trust and a sense of belonging to the organization,» he said. He also stresses the role of business leaders in ensuring the existence of competent successors. According to the results of the study, only about one-third of middle-ranking respondents believe that senior executives are effective managers and that they make the proper strategic decisions. An even smaller proportion believe that they function as team leaders and only 20 percent believe that they inspire vision among their subordinates. In surprisingly high numbers – 82 percent as regards public enterprises and 75 percent for multinational subsidiaries with foreign managers – respondents believe that their seniors disregard meritocracy and seek short-term success through «courtiers.» But they rate Greek managers of foreign concerns higher than foreign managers of those same concerns. «This is perhaps explained by the fact that foreign managers do not easily understand Greek culture and adopt a short-term view of things, in line with the duration of their tenure. Another explanation may be that the small size of the Greek market attracts foreign managers of lower caliber,» says Bourantas. The problem, which has been confirmed before, is becoming more serious now, he says, due to intensifying competition, because employees today expect more motivation from management and because it creates a gap between middle and senior levels. Bourantas argues that it is necessary for the crucial role of effective management to be more widely recognized as a competitive advantage, as well as for the skills of senior managers to be subject to evaluation by colleagues and superiors, and for their systematic further training. He also recommends planning for succession and «career avenues» in enterprises. And finally, the replacement of managers who are found to be seriously wanting.