Neil Tambe

I'm a Detroiter who happens to enjoy writing, national parks, orange juice, the performing arts, and fanciful socks. More than anything though, I aspire to be a good husband, father, and citizen.

Management is simple

Don't let pundits, the mess-load of half-rate leadership books, overpriced management consultants, or blogging MBA graduates fool you - management is simple. It's not easy, but it is simple. It's taken me twenty years to reach this insight but here it is. Management comes down to this:

Management is a craft of shared sacrifice. If you can convince others to advance a common interest more often than they advance their own interests, you've succeeded as a manager. If you haven't done that, you've failed. It's just that simple.

If you had to buy-off, intimidate, or otherwise coerce someone to advance a common interest, you're a manager - but a pretty bad one. If you've done it without coercion, you're a pretty good manager. If you've convinced others to advance a common interest, but that common interest is harmful to society in some way, you're not only not a manager, you're also a scoundrel.

All those other things that you can learn about management, leadership, organizational strategy, and such from books and leadership coursework still apply. Yes, you have to be vulnerable. Yes, you have to clearly define roles and responsibilities. Yes, you have to have integrity. Yes, you have to inspire. Yes, you have to have accountability and control systems. Yes, aligning incentives matters. But following those rules is not a formula for being an effective manager.

At the end of the day, the result that matters is if a group reaches a place of shared sacrifice. If you can do that, everything else falls into place relatively easily. Getting others to advance a common interest more often than they advance their own interest is the only rule you really need to know.

If anyone else has a better sentence describing the essence of management, I'm all ears and eager to learn from you.

If you're an audio person, you can also catch these posts (with a little extra discussion) by subscribing to my podcast via the iTunes store. Happy listening!