The ‘manager-hero’ is a thing of the past

Efficiency is an indispensable attribute of modern businesses which have to operate in an environment – economic, social, cultural and technological – which is developing so fast that it does not easily lend itself to research. The main question for managers is what kind of leadership to apply in order to attain the desirable results. Today’s environment, in which managers have to apply their leadership, is different from what it was 20 years ago, and will be different again in 20 years’ time. But it should be apparent that at any given time this environment is not only shaped by general evolutionary trends, it is the behavior of managers themselves that exerts its own force on development and can influence the situation. When, for instance, members of a team neither know how to nor want to perform, the manager will surely have to follow the authoritarian style of leadership. When, however, he applies incentives and efficient training, his subordinates will begin to want to learn. The matter is the subject of a chapter in Athens School of Economics Professor Dimitris Bourantas’s recently published book «Management» (Menu Publications). Although he cautions that the more or less important peculiarities of each case should not be overlooked, in general «with mature people and participatory styles of leadership, one achieves much better results and satisfaction than with immature individuals and an authoritarian style.» The obvious suggestion is that the effective manager should seek to develop an individuals’ maturity. But the opposite, the dominant style of leadership – which is justifiably called «heroic» – on the whole, still prevails today. The leader-hero takes all the responsibility for his team and is supposed to be aware of the problems at any given moment and to have the appropriate solutions ready. He must not only know, but also be able to effectively activate procedures and mechanisms. He will have to accept, manage and effectively transmit information concerning the team, meet the needs of his subordinates, resolve conflicts and ensure cooperation with other departments in the business. This style of leadership can be effective to some degree, but does not usually achieve excellent results when the members of the team are not specialized or have no specific skills and know-how, when subordinates need to depend on and admire their leader, when the consent of the members of the team is not important for the efficient implementation of goals, or when the environment is slow to change. «However, the reality in modern business is different. The leader-hero will never be able to overcome certain narrow limits in efficiency in most cases, as the style of leadership is the source of certain basic problems which impede improvement. The result is that the manager-hero becomes even more heroic and a vicious circle ensues,» Bourantas tells Kathimerini. He explains that the perfect leadership style is one that activates and taps all the potential of team members, while also developing and boosting this potential. Once one has taken account of «the complexity and difficulty of the coordination of tasks, the fast-changing environment and the strain of adapting to it, the huge volume of information required and the requirements and values of the workers, there are certain fundamental requirements for effective leadership. First, part of the responsibility and administrative tasks must be assumed by the team members themselves. This is not to enable participants to realize certain ambitions or needs, but means that the members of the team are jointly responsible for the attainment of the desired results. The task of the leader, therefore, is to form a responsible team. «In a football match, victory is not just the responsibility of the leader or coach, but everyone’s responsibility.» Secondly, the team members’ skills and knowledge must be developed. «The mentality of the leader-hero must change into that of a leader-teacher/adviser/coach,» says Bourantas. A third requirement for effective leadership must be the fostering of a common perception and collective spirit within the team, which must incorporate members’ personal goals into the commonly acceptable vision of what the success and efficiency of the team means. «Overcoming the mentality and practices of the leader-hero is a basic prerequisite for the continued efficiency of managers and organizations in the present market conditions,» says Bourantas. He stresses that it is not an easy task and can not be accomplished from one day to the next, requiring persistence and a systematic long-term effort. It also presupposes understanding of the need for this development and a willingness by team members to move in this direction.

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