Managerial Courage

Recently I came across the term “managerial courage” in the Requirements section of a job posting  (the fact that it was listed in the job posting is an entirely different conversation).  The more I thought I about it, the more I agreed that this should be a requirement for any managerial position in any company because courage is exactly what it takes to “manage” in any organization.  Dictionary.com defines courage as either of the following:

  • “the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery”
  • “have the courage of one’s convictions, to act in accordance with one’s beliefs, esp. in spite of criticism”

I think that either one aptly describes the daily challenge  of managers in most current organizations.  The reason for this is the managers do the work that drives businesses but receive little of the recognition.  It is amazing to me that whenever I get a new class for leadership or leading change, almost all of the students in the class will invariably vote to be a leader over a manager.  When I press them for a reason, I usually get back a less than stellar explanation that refers to vision, strategy, making a difference, blah, blah, blah.

We have successfully brainwashed people into thinking that there is actually a job called “leader”!  As I told the class last night, manager is the job, leadership is how you do the job.  Managers make money, leaders make speeches.  Management requires a specific set of skills just like any other profession and the requirement should not be that “the person has been here the longest”.  Managing takes heart which, interestingly enough, is the root word from which courage is taken (funny how that works).  Here are a few reasons that it takes heart to manage:

  • No one actually strives to get into management but many strive to get out
  • Managers are sought out only when there is an issue
  • The majority of US population believes that Michael Scott is accurate portrayal of 90% of the managers in the workforce
  • A manager’s work is never done (modern-day Sisyphus)
  • Manager’s have to do the tactical work that enables the strategy to work
  • In essence, managers are like the first people to storm the beach at Normandy, there are many of them but you need them all to make it happen
  • Managers are the “face” of every organization at the level of the workers and the customers (and catch all the stuff that flies when it flies)
  • Every day is a new fire drill
  • Managers work long hours because they can only work on their stuff once the others go home

It is not glamorous or even fun most of the time.  People who excel in managing do it because they have a heart for it.  It is almost like a ministry because it is most often about the people.  If done right, you leave a piece of yourself with each team you manage…a piece you never get back.

Since it is a tireless effort, I have remembered a quote from Mother Teresa that always kept my managerial challenges in perspective,  “What I can do you cannot do; but what you do, I cannot do.  The needs are great , and none of us, including me, ever do great things.  But we can all do small things with great love, and together we can do something wonderful.”

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Filed under Leadership, Looking in the mirror

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